After The George Parros Incident, We Need To Reconsider Fighting In The NHLHockey, No Class Friday, Sports — By Dillon Friday on October 4, 2013 at 9:24 am
The NHL returned Tuesday night on the same day that the United States government shut down, or should we say, locked out its workers. Gary Bettman must have felt some vindication. The opening games showcased the good and bad of the current league.
Coming out of the lockout (lockout? What lockout?) the Chicago Blackhawks went on an unprecedented unbeaten run that ultimately culminated in a Stanley Cup. The reigning champs celebrated in style before winning a scintillating 6-4 game against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
It appeared that the good vibes from last June had continued to reverberate into the early autumn. Save for an incident in Montreal, that is. While the Hawks and Caps were renewing a match-up that hadn’t been played since the 2011-12 season, the Habs and Maple Leafs faced off in their familiar French Canada-English Canada battle.
As tensions between the teams reached a boiling point, the Canadiens’ new acquisition George Parros squared off with Toronto tough guy Colton Orr. After a heated scrap that saw both men land punches, Parros with his size advantage finally neutralized Orr. As the Leaf was falling to the ice, however, he dragged the Habs’ big man with him. Parros met the ice face first, absorbing a shot as if Mike Tyson’s fist had broken through the Bell Centre’s surface. He was out cold.
The patrons remained on their feet, stuck in the moral dilemma that their favorite game presents. A moment ago, they were cheering on Parros. Now they stood with hands still raised but mouths agape, feeling uneasy about the spectacle they just witnessed. As the now conscious but visibly maimed Parros slid across the ice on a stretcher, you could hear the predictable refrain leave the mouths of the apologists: “It’s an unfortunate accident, but it’s part of the game.”
The rhetoric surrounding the aftermath was arguably more disheartening. The fighting debate lurks behind every hockey season. It just so happened to re-emerge on the first night of a new era. Some pundits bemoaned the anti-fighting sentiment. Others, including Carolina and Tampa Bay General Managers Jim Rutherford and Steve Yzerman, insisted that the league should stiffen the penalties for fighting.
Meanwhile, doctors diagnosed Parros with a concussion and a broken jaw. Analysts and players across the board breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s good to see that George is going to be okay.” Read: It’s good that he didn’t die. He very well could have.
Perhaps I’ve read too much about concussions over the past few seasons, but isn’t it time to scratch that phrase from our lexicon? Who are we to say George Parros is going to be okay? Sure, the enforcer will likely skate again this season. When he returns to the Canadiens lineup, the Montreal faithful will give him a hero’s welcome. Maybe he deserves it. After all, he did put his life on the line for le Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.
But 10 years from now, who will George Parros be? The fighters who paved the way for men like Parros have tragically been falling by the wayside. In the offseason of 2011 alone, we lost Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard. Belak and Rypien killed themselves, while Boogaard succumbed to a long battle with substance abuse. Like Parros, all three were beloved teammates. All three fought on a nightly basis. All three lost their lives at least in part because they took and threw punches for a living.
This isn’t to say that Parros will encounter similar demons as he faces retirement and beyond. Nor is it to single out the Canadien as a proprietor of the league’s carnal activities. Fighting as an institution has lived far too long in the NHL. It needs to be removed.