Fighting the goon fight

He embraces the cartoonish aspect of his job. A few years ago, Greene, one of his best friends, checked one of Parros' teammates too hard. Parros got in Greene's face. "We're having a talk right now!" he said. "You know that we're having a talk right now!"

"Oh, we're having a talk?" Greene said.

"Yeah, you better make it look like we're having a talk!" Parros said as the crowd stirred. "'Cause we're having a talk! And I'm gonna slash ya!"

So Parros slashed Greene. Gloves dropped. Parros decked Greene in front of the bench. That night, they downed beers as disbelieving fans looked on. "They think it's fake," Greene says. "'Oh, you're probably pulling punches.' No. We're trying to knock each other out."

Of course, Parros has knocked guys out. He has likely inflicted pain that his opponents will contend with later in life. "The fights where I have hurt someone, I feel really bad about it," he says. Yet he strongly believes that fighting has a rightful place in hockey and is "a means to an end" that he'll likely keep doing as long as he can. "I've never been one to say either he's going down or I am," Parros says over his pint. "That's not my style. I want to keep fighting, and it doesn't do anyone any good if I'm knocked out and gone with a concussion for three months."

But then something unforeseen happened: He was knocked out.

On a late October morning, Parros is at Madison Square Garden for the Canadiens' skate-around. This is his first road trip since his concussion 28 days ago. Every Canadiens player wears a red practice jersey -- except him. His sweater is blue. That means he's not to be touched, and he's scratched for tonight. Parros participates in a few drills but mostly watches from the boards. He stays on the ice after the team leaves, working on his shot. Though he's scored only 18 career goals, he's proud of his shot; he says he won the Ducks' accuracy competition back in the day. Then he skates to an assistant coach, stops hard and drops his gloves … to help pick up the pucks off the ice.

After practice, Parros sits on the bench and tries to make sense of the past month. Unlike his first concussion, "there was a lot more song and dance involved" with this one, he says. Every twinge of pain, every abnormal sensation was documented. Curiously, the symptoms were less painful. He didn't puke. He didn't lose balance. He had pounding headaches rather than debilitating ones. And, as Parros says with a laugh, "I couldn't tell if the headache was from the concussion or from being around the kids."

After a week, the headaches stopped. He was allowed to exercise lightly, then to skate. If the symptoms had returned, he would have had to go back a step. They never did.

Of course, the biggest difference is that after his first concussion, nobody used it as a rationale for changing hockey. That he has become the face for a movement he disagrees with seems to frustrate him more than the concussion itself. He has no intention of changing how he plays. But he also knows that he's more likely to suffer another concussion now that he's had one. He knows that later in life he might be addled, with an invisible disease in his brain. But he's wired to fight, and if he stops, he would lose his job. "It's a choice I make," he says.

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