The Montreal Canadiens held their annual golf tournament Laval-sur-le-Lac Golf Club in Laval, on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 including newcomers George Parros and Danny Briere, right.
Photograph by: Dave Sidaway, The Gazette
MONTREAL — The second-most absurd thing on the morning of the Canadiens’ annual charity golf tournament — No. 1 was goalie Carey Price arriving in a truck better suited to an aircraft carrier than a driveway — was hulking forward George Parros standing on a raised platform so he’d be seen by cameras.
At 6-foot-5, Parros would be head and shoulders over many even if he were standing in a ditch.
But the incoming heavyweight, a Princeton University economics graduate with NHL stops in Los Angeles, Colorado, Anaheim and Florida, dutifully stepped up to speak to the assembled media at Laval-sur-le-Lac — then in fewer than 10 minutes proceeded to drop word-bombs seldom heard from a hockey player:
Symposiums. Esthetic. Hockey-centric.
If Canadiens fans are going to love this guy — and they will — it’s a reasonable assumption that the quote-harvesting media will love him even more.
It remains to be seen whether Parros will be ready for the Oct. 1 start of the season, still rehabbing from surgery he underwent in late May to repair a torn rotator cuff. He injured the shoulder tumbling to the ice after a fight last season, extending an arm to soften the landing and protect his head “to save a few brain cells.”
Summer rehab, Parros said Tuesday morning before teeing off, has been going “really well.”
But, he added, “we’re not sure” whether he’ll be ready for opening night.
“If it responds really well (to ongoing rehab), we’re hoping I can start on time,” Parros said. “We’re not sure yet. We’ll just kind of take it as it goes.”
The 33-year-old spoke from behind his trademark forest of a moustache and beneath a grey gap emblazoned with the words “Violent Gentlemen ENFORCE.”
“I usually wear the hat backward, but this is a golf course,” Parros said, almost apologetically, the Violent Gentlemen branding featured on the popular line of shirts and caps produced by two friends and himself.
(He’s now gone bilingual, at violentgentlemen.com.)
“It’s something we do for fun, try to capture a fun esthetic with some different creative things going on. It’s a great way to reach out and interact with fans.
“It’s just hats and T-shirts, nothing too fashionable,” he said, grinning. “I know Montreal is a fashionable city (but) we haven’t broken into the cut-and-sew industry yet.”
Five summers ago, the Canadiens signed enforcer Georges Laraque, and at this golf course in 2008, precisely where Parros stood Tuesday, then-Canadien Steve Bégin remarked that Laraque’s acquisition made every Hab feel a few inches taller and a few pounds heavier.
That didn’t exactly work out.
Admittedly, Parros hasn’t yet skated one shift or clenched one fist in his No. 15 Canadiens jersey. But the dynamic here is very different than it was five years ago; Parros knows his role before he’s had any kind of heart-to-heart with coach Michel Therrien.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of discussion involved,” Parros said. “I’m brought to a team for a certain reason. I embrace that role. I’m going to do what I can to help this team out. …
“I haven’t had a chance to sit down with (Therrien) and talk specifically about what kinds of things he looks for. But I’m looking forward to those conversations and, hopefully, I can fit in well here. …
“Every team is different. There are teams that survive on speed and skill. Montreal is one of them, but you need a little mix of everything and I think there were times last year when they were taken advantage of physically.”
Was there a sense around the NHL, I asked Parros, that the Canadiens could be easily bullied?
“No,” he replied quickly. “We don’t all get together in symposiums and talk about who’s getting pushed around and who’s scoring goals. There’s nothing quite like that.”
The fact is, the off-season addition of Parros and bungalow-size defenceman Douglas Murray, added to the timely bad attitudes of Brandon Prust and Ryan White, has given the Canadiens a grittier edge.
If Parros never has to drop his mitts — which he will, without invitation — his presence will be a useful deterrent.
Some nights, Parros admits, he won’t have a dance partner.
“(Then) I’ll think I can go out and try to score and worry about other things,” he said. “But there are other nights when a team doesn’t have a fighter and I think I’ll have an easy night and all of a sudden everyone decides they’re going to be running the goalie and things get crazy and out of hand anyway.
“Just because I’m on a team or somebody else is doesn’t mean you can stop everything from happening. Every night is different.”
Already, Parros is feeling the love of Montreal. He said his GeorgeParros Twitter following has increased by about 20,000 since his June acquisition, bumping up almost 9,000 within minutes of the announcement.
“It’s going to be really exciting,” he said of being a Canadien. “There’s a lot of attention, a lot of things that come along with that. I’m looking forward to that and playing in a hockey-centric environment.
“I’m getting a great outpouring on social media, which is the big thing these days. I had a great time when I came to visit a few weeks ago. In fact, I got lost in the streets while we were looking for a restaurant we couldn’t find. Someone recognized me and I said, ‘While I have you, why don’t you tell me how to get to this restaurant?’
“It’s such a storied franchise. There’s a lot of history here and certainly you capture the attention of a greater audience in Montreal.”
And already, he’s had his welcome-to-Montreal moment. He arrived in the city at midnight Monday and awoke Tuesday to no running water.
“Tough start,” Parros said, laughing. “But other than that, we’re OK. … The challenge for me in any season is to play at my best and worry about me. Whether in Florida, Anaheim or in Montreal, the biggest concern is making sure you do your job first.”
If he can’t wait to get started, imagine the Canadiens fans for whom Parros’s hockey gloves will be optional equipment.
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