Fighting the goon fight

Moments pass. With assistance, Parros stumbles to his knees. But his eyes are still closed, and his head wobbles, then he slips back toward the ice, like a drunk on a barroom floor. Medical personnel roll him onto his back, and it's then that he opens his eyes and comes to and sees the ceiling of the Bell Centre, its banners and steel grids and lights.

Parros feels a dull panic. He knows something happened, but he's not sure what. He is carried away on a stretcher and catches sight of his worried wife, Tiffany, as medical staff load him into an ambulance. He feels the panic again. In this moment, he is not worried that he has suffered a serious head injury. He is not worried about the blood on his face. He is not worrying about when he might play again. He is worried that Orr knocked him out, a tough guy's greatest indignity. Tiffany grew up in a hockey family -- they met when her brother, Josh, played in juniors with Parros -- and she seems to know what's on her husband's mind. So she reassures him. "You didn't get knocked out!" she says.

As the ambulance moves, Parros is relieved.

When Parros is released from the hospital a day later with a concussion, he returns to his home in Montreal and realizes that he has unwittingly become something that he has spent his whole career striving not to be: the poster boy for the anti-fighting lobby. Almost as soon as Parros' jaw hits the ice, hockey icons Steve Yzerman, Scotty Bowman and Ken Dryden call for a ban on fighting. During a Mayo Clinic hockey concussions summit in mid-October, researchers use the stark image of Parros lying in blood as their most recent evidence of the dire health risks. Suddenly, debate rages on airwaves and online, and to many Parros is no longer just a hockey player. He is a CTE case waiting to happen, an Ivy Leaguer who needs to be saved from himself.

Parros feels pissed off and powerless. He is not in denial about head injuries, but he has seen them as a potential cost of his job that he's been smart enough to avoid. That has brought him a strange peace. But now he has headaches and pressure in his skull, as if his brain is swelling, which it is. He has toddler twins, Lola and Jagger, who don't know and don't care and want to play with their daddy, now and forever. Parros often thinks about 2011, when he read the reports that surfaced after Boston University scientists studied Derek Boogaard's brain and found CTE, the tire tracks of perhaps 20 concussions. Like Parros, Boogaard was a tough guy. He was also a friend. After suffering from depression, dementia and memory loss, Boogaard overdosed at 28. "It was scary," Parros says.

Parros knows he could easily call it a career. He's made almost $1 million annually for the past few years and is financially comfortable. He could work in the front office of an NHL team or retire to his Hermosa Beach, Calif., home. Texts and voice mails pile up on his phone, including one from Orr, who says, "I hope you're doing okay." But all Parros keeps coming back to is how this fight was a freak thing. He wasn't knocked out by a punch. No matter. He has tests to take, symptoms to document, and for a witty guy with an endearing ability to find the irony in most situations, he tries not to dwell too much on this surreal one: The enforcer who turned fighting safer into an art form is now the symbol of why fighting should be abolished.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...