Normally when one thinks about the faces of the franchise, they associate those players with high scorers or Vezina-caliber goaltending, not the enforcers.
From 2006 to 2012, the Anaheim Ducks had their expected superstars plastered across the marketing materials, but there was always one face that joined them: the mustachioed mug of George Parros. The affable enforcer became a fan favorite in Anaheim and later across the league for his fisticuffs, sense of humor, and of course, the mustache.
On Friday, the nine-year NHL veteran called it a career. I had the opportunity to speak with Parros as he made the media rounds to reflect back on his career and look ahead to what’s next.
Q: Why retire now?
PARROS: “I’ve had a long career, and to stretch it out and go down to the minors, and kind of take that step backwards, I wasn’t prepared to do that, especially with young kids. I’d rather just kind of get on with the rest of my life. I feel like I’ve got a future in hockey, and I’m excited to start that chapter and turn that page. So that was pretty much the reason for that.”
What’s the future then? What would you like to do?
“Hmm. I don’t know. I’m keeping my options open at the moment. I’ve certainly done a lot of media and things in front of the camera, which I like. But I’m also intrigued by management and kind of building and structuring a team. I just kind of wait and see.”
You’ve got that economics degree from Princeton. Are you interested in hockey analytics at all? It’s a big movement now.
“Well, interesting question. Statistics was one of my favorite courses in school, but hockey analytics, I don’t know. I’m kind of one of those old school guys that doesn’t pay a whole of attention. I think you can certainly glean some data from that, but I think that still getting eyes on somebody, seeing first hand, kind of judging the character of a person is more important.”
In an article for THN, you said you made the deliberate decision to basically become an enforcer. Knowing what you know now, would you still make that decision?
“Yeah. Absolutely. 100-percent. I did it because I knew, or I was hoping, it would get me on to an NHL club quicker and it certainly did that. I made the NHL team within a few years there. Who knows if I would’ve made it before; we had a lockout year that next year. It definitely opened a lot of doors for me, and created the path for me to go down, which I’m so grateful for. I had a great career, I think. I played with a lot of great guys and did some amazing things. But definitely would’ve done it; 100-percent.”
Did you ever think it would turn into this brand? I mean, do you think that’s part of your fame in the NHL is the brand that you built around your mustache?
“I think so. I’ve always said it’s kind of like it’s the greatest marketing tool there ever was, and it kind of happened by accident. I think there is a certain brand out there. You know, I’m OK with that. I think that it is something that I’ve cherished, and I embrace it. It’s something fun for the fans. It’s a way to connect to the fans. It’s a way to stand out. It’s certainly afforded me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had before.”
Why a mustache and not a mullet or a unibrow?
“Well, mustaches are inherently manly and funny and everything else in between, and that really defines me too, I think. But I really identified with, and growing up and collecting hockey cards and watching games, and seeing guys from the earlier era they all had them. Then all the sudden nobody had them. So when I was able to grow one, I started to do it for fun during the playoffs instead of a playoff beard. I can’t really grow a beard anyway.
I really did just identify with all the old-school players. They all had mustaches, it was just something I’d noticed, had seen growing up, and they went the way of the dodo. [Laughs]. I figured I’d bring them back.”
What color would you call Corey Perry’s mustache? I call it clear or flesh-colored.
“Dirty blonde. I mean, we are talking about Corey Perry so dirty blonde. [Laughs]”
Having gone through what you have, how do you think the NHL is handling concussions?
“I think the protocol in place is adequate. I think they’re very aware of it and trying to push the knowledge further. They’re working within the knowledge we have on concussions, and I think they’re going to continue to stay ahead of that curve if they can. I think they’re doing a good enough job.”
Are you afraid of any possible cognitive issues in the future? Are you more aware of what could arise?
“Certainly they’re on my radar. And I try to keep track of things like that. I saw a specialist after the concussion in Montreal. In talking with him, I’ve got a lot of insight as to what to expect and he actually painted a pretty rosy picture. I think, personally, for my own self, I’ll be looking at and monitoring. Am I worried right now? No, but I was worried. In speaking with the specialist … he put a lot of fears to rest. I haven’t had too many [concussions]; I’ve just had that one and it probably looked worse than it was.”
Did you seek out that specialist on your own or was it recommended by the NHL?
“I [looked for] him out on my own. The Canadiens were great with the whole situation, too. They were more than happy to have me go see him. There was no pushing me back too soon. In fact, they may have brought it up, going out there to see him. They were great through the whole thing … Everyone was on the same page. Obviously, my health takes priority.”
Going back to your time in Anaheim since you spent most of your career there. When Bruce Boudreau came [in 2011], did you know, or have a feeling, your role on the team was going to change?
“Ah, no. Also an interesting question.
I played for Bruce in the minors [with Manchester]. I had an unbelievable relationship with him. He played me a lot, had confidence in me. I had the best year of hockey in my life probably; scored 14 goals. He played me a ton; I was killing penalties, the whole deal. I was the happiest guy in the room when he signed with Anaheim.
Didn’t turn out so well, unfortunately. We were having a terrible year, and pretty much had to win out from December onwards if we wanted to have a chance of making the playoffs. I think we were the 29th team in the league. So he felt a lot of pressure when he got there. You know, he didn’t feel the need to put me in the lineup so much because, I think, of all that pressure. I wasn’t, obviously, the guy he felt could get us there, and which, you know, probably some people would think that.
It was a little more difficult because I was hoping it would go the other way, and it didn’t. I don’t hold it against Bruce. He’s a good coach. I think he was the coach that team needed at that time. But yeah, it didn’t turn out so well for me. It didn’t turn out the way I expected it.”
At the end of the season did they talk to you, and you knew it was going to be a parting of ways?
“Yeah, the team wasn’t really, I think maybe, I don’t know for sure. I can’t crawl inside Bob Murray’s head.
Given the way that Bruce did use me; maybe they felt I was less of a priority to sign in free agency. So the offers I was getting from the Ducks were underneath what the market would’ve offered me, which they were. It made too little sense to stay there, as much as I didn’t want that to happen. It hurt to leave Anaheim. They really were not even coming close to what you would consider competitive offer.
But, you know, that’s the business of things. I understood that because, like I said, I wasn’t playing much. I became less of a priority so they’re not going to pay me market value or close to market value because of that. It’s just the way things go. It was tough leaving Anaheim [for Florida], but it was the move I had to make for my family.”
Let’s turn to happier times in Anaheim. A lot of people don’t know you weren’t guaranteed to have your name engraved on the Stanley Cup. How and when did you find out you were going to get your name on there?
“So there’s a rule that people don’t know about necessarily. It says, in order to get your name on the Cup, you either have to play in 50-percent of the team’s games in the season or play in at least one game in the Stanley Cup Final. I did not play in any of the Stanley Cup Finals games, and I got traded to Anaheim in mid-to-late November and only ended up playing in 38 of the teams games or something like that. I would have to had played in 41; I was only a couple games away. So I didn’t reach the qualification.
At that point, a GM has to petition to get your name on there. I found out that [then Ducks GM Brian Burke] was going to do that. I forget when exactly. I certainly was glad they decided to do that … It would have been pretty disappointing if that hadn’t been the case. But Burkie’s a stand up guy and I’m glad he did it.”
Final topic is Violent Gentlemen. Is it 100-percent your company or are you on a board of some sort?
“It’s me and two partners; you could say it’s 33.3-percent mine, I guess. It’s me and a couple friends that I’d known, in Anaheim, approached me wanting to do something in the hockey lifestyle space, a clothing line. One of them use to work for Quiksilver. The other one is a graphic designer; he does corner work, training work for MMA fighters. Really cool guys.
We decided to go ahead and do this thing we call Violent Gentlemen, which we’re very glad we did. It’s an amazing company. We deliver great product to people. It’s certainly something that’s been fun for me; again to reach out to the fans with and interact that way. Also it has this whole creative side and getting to learn about growing a business.”
How did you come up with the name?
“The name, I guess, has it’s origins through me and my career. When we were trying to figure something out, we didn’t really have a concept for the name. My one partner had seen it before, like years back, on some blog or something like that, it was a soccer hooligan type of thing in England. He read it in print years ago, and kind of just came to him because I am who I am. I’m a Princeton educated fighter in the league. I’m violent in my work, but I’m a gentleman off the ice type of thing, so it kind of seemed to fit and hit on a couple different levels.
And it sounds cool as hell and people seem to like it.”