Fighting the goon fight

He has his own tough-guy methodology, a science of its own, and as he explains it over beers, it's sensible enough to almost make you believe it will work. Parros fights primarily to protect teammates. He fights to pump up his team and to calm it down. Parros usually fights on his first shift if he's outsized -- if, for instance, he's facing Buffalo's John Scott, a 6'8" missile. Parros fights after he misses a goal, as penance, and after he scores, striving for the Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight. And Parros sometimes fights as a favor to other fighters. As Scott says, "In one of my first fights, my team was down three goals in the third. I said to George, 'You wanna go?' George said, 'Not really. But you'll owe me one.' Now anytime he wants to fight me, I will."

But the reasons Parros doesn't fight are more essential to his long-term health. For one, he doesn't fight if he's angry; that would lead him to take wild swings and leave his body exposed. For another, he doesn't fight because he needs to, as if satisfying a barbaric urge. "If I didn't have to fight, I wouldn't," he says. "If I could score goals for a living, I would. It's a lot more fun, and I'd make a lot more money."

Strangest of all, he doesn't fight to win. He wants to win. He definitely does not want to be knocked out. But he won't fight until the bloody end. Former NHL enforcer Ryan Flinn, Parros' mentor, once told him, "As long as you show up and do your job, it's good enough."

Parros has always showed up. He grew up in Morristown, N.J., wanting to be a physical scorer like Eric Lindros. But his size -- he's now 6'5", 224 pounds -- made him a target in juniors, where fighting is allowed, so he saw that he needed to learn how to scrap. Problem was, he had never been in so much as a playground scuffle. So he practiced basic moves -- grabbing the collar, jabbing the chin -- with Jeff, his younger brother. In juniors, Parros suffered his only other concussion. It was in 1999, and it wasn't in a fight. His head hit the crossbar. "Back then," he says, "concussions didn't really matter." There was no protocol. Nobody worried that he puked and suffered splitting headaches and felt nauseated. And nobody worried that he returned to the ice too fast.

That year, Parros left juniors for Princeton and the fighting-free college game. He graduated in 2003 with an economics degree, and the Kings, who had drafted him in 1999, assigned him to the AHL. Overmatched from a skills standpoint, Parros realized that his only hope of playing in the NHL was to fight. So he watched fights on film and took boxing lessons but realized that what worked in gym shoes -- a simple head fake, for example -- caused him to lose balance on skates. He had to learn his craft the scary way: by fighting. "You're bare-knuckled fighting, and it's nerve-racking," he says. That fear led him to develop his rules, a stab at wisdom in mayhem. Those rules became prescient as the dangers of fighting settled into public consciousness, and Parros made a name for himself as not only the smartest enforcer but also a lovable one, with long black hair and a Kourosh Yaghmaei mustache that he shaves each November to raise money to kill cancer.

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