Some hockey players show little or no inclination to intellectualize scary happenings on the ice, but not this guy.
George Parros holds an economics degree from Princeton University, an institution that isn’t known for just handing diplomas to athletes, so as one might expect the Montreal Canadiens forward has done some thinking about what befell him in the opening game of the NHL season.
In the third period, Parros lost his balance during a fight with Toronto Maple Leafs hard case Colton Orr and slammed face-first into the ice. He suffered a concussion, and had to be carted off.
“My wife can’t watch [the replay], but I don’t mind seeing it, honestly. It was something freaky that happened, it wasn’t like I took a straight shot to the face and got knocked cold then slammed my face,” said the 33-year-old enforcer, who practised with his team Thursday for the first time since the injury.
“It was kind of an awkward thing to go down and not have my arm out for support and go chin first. It happened, now, I’m moving on.”
It also hasn’t escaped Parros’s notice the incident has been used as fodder in the debate over whether the NHL should continue to tolerate fighting.
Trading punches is a mainstay of Parros’s game and personal brand – he has 18 goals, 35 points and 1,027 penalty minutes in 453 career NHL games, fitting stats for a player who has a clothing line called Violent Gentlemen.
(The Violent Gentlemen website features a large photo of Parros duking it out with now-suspended Buffalo Sabres tough guy John Scott).
Not only does he believe hockey should tolerate fighting, he’s not especially chuffed at being held up as an example of why it should be done away with.
“I’m not happy that they would use a fight of mine to say there’s no more room for fighting in the league … obviously, I’m going to be a proponent of fighting, I think there’s a place for it,” Parros said. “What happened to me was unfortunate, and it’s not the first time something like that has happened and probably won’t be the last, no one ever wants to see it happen.
“My mindset is fine, I think that we play a tough game out here and honestly, something like that can happen at any point, whether it’s in a fight or not. I guess people expect me to say that, but at the end of the day, ice is a hard surface, the boards are a hard surface.”
Be that as it may, the sight of Parros lying on the ice appears to have galvanized the doves in the NHL establishment; Hall of Fame luminaries Steve Yzerman and Scotty Bowman and general managers Ray Shero (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Jim Rutherford (Carolina Hurricanes) have joined a chorus urging for a crackdown. The issue is to be discussed at a meeting of the league’s GMs.
But the NHL typically moves at a glacial pace, the immediate focus is on improving player safety.
Just this week at the Bell Centre, fans caught a glimpse of a new league directive ordering linesmen to step between players who have taken off their helmets in order to fight – the helmet rule having been implemented this summer.
Parros isn’t a particular fan of linesmen jumping in – he suggests it could lead to players trading blows more quickly and aggressively – but nor does he think players should try to remove their helmets. (“You’re taking a risk,” he said.)
Asked if he senses the league is trying to discourage fighting, Parros said: “They’re trying to make fighting safer, that’s for sure.
“I think the best thing that’s happened for their cause, trying to get rid of fighting, would just be the new rules. It’s made it a much faster game, a more skilled game, it’s cut down on a lot of the guys that just go around and do one role on the ice. Hopefully, that’s where it stops, if you can keep pace with the game and play, be an asset to your team and not a detriment, and still fight, then I think you’re one of the greatest assets on a team.”
Parros is still a little ways off from being cleared for contact, and it may be a week or two before he’s able to return to the lineup.
He’s suffered concussions before (“before concussions were such a big deal”) and candidly admitted he can’t know how he’ll feel when he returns to the ice. But his enthusiasm for his role is undimmed.
“I have a clear head about what happened, it’s fine, and I’m looking forward to getting back to playing,” he said.
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