MONTREAL — George Parros says he’s not happy that some people used his concussion as an argument to take fighting out of hockey.
Parros was injured on Oct. 1 when he became entangled with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Colton Orr and fell chin-first to the ice. Parros was removed from the ice on a gurney and the images of his fall renewed the debate over fighting in the National Hockey League.
“Obviously, I’m a proponent of fighting,” said Parros, an articulate Princeton graduate whose greatest value to an NHL team is his ability to throw punches.
The Canadiens acquired the 6-foot-5, 224-pounder during the off-season as a deterrent to ward off opponents who take liberties with the team’s smaller players.
“This incident could have happened anywhere, not just in a fight,” Parros said. “There are risks in this game, the boards are hard, the ice is hard.”
But Parros said the players and the league are both working to make the game safer, and they are succeeding.
He said one of the major changes was a new set of rules that have been implemented since the lockout that resulted in the cancellation of the 2004-05 season. Parros said the game is faster, and that means players in his position must be able to do more than fight.
Parros also noted that fighting is safer, although we’re dealing with degrees of safety. It’s difficult to envision any scenario in which two players are trying to hit each other in the head being safe.
One new rule this season requires all newcomers to the NHL to wear a visor, which is a progressive step forward in reducing facial and eye injuries. But the visors pose a concern for the fighters, because while a helmet offers protection for the head there’s a greater possibility of a hand injury from striking a visor.
The result is a bit of twisted logic in which some players have decided they would rather risk a head injury than a broken hand and have decided to take off their helmets before a fight.
That was the case Tuesday night when the Canadiens’ Travis Moen and rookie Luke Gazdic of the Edmonton Oilers decided to dance. Gazdic, a rookie who had three fights in his first 10 NHL games, has to wear a visor and he and Moen agreed to do the sporting thing and take off their helmets.
They never got to throw a punch because the NHL has wisely decided it doesn’t want to see exposed heads and has mandated linesmen to step in and stop a fight without helmets before it begins. Presumably, this is a step toward safer fighting, but it would be a safer game if the NHL put some teeth in the penalties for fighting which is, of course, a no-no under Rule 46.
To me, the most interesting comments from Parros came when he was asked whether he watched the tape of the incident that resulted in his concussion. He said he didn’t have any trouble watching it, but that his wife couldn’t.
Over the years, I’ve had conversations with players and their wives, and the ladies seem to have far more interest in safety issues.
Maybe it’s time to get some female input on the NHL rules committee.
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