A neuroscientist might see that as denial. But Parros is tired of defending himself and his trade, tired of reminding people he wasn't knocked out by a punch. "I'll have that fight a thousand times and not have that happen," he says. But no matter how smart of a fighter he is, it's still a fight, still beyond anyone's control, still the target of the Mayo Clinic and Boston University, still an issue that Gary Bettman will probably decide on long after Parros is retired, living with the choices he makes today.
Parros returns to the lineup in early November. Five minutes into his second game, against the Avalanche, there's a collision along the boards. A few elbows are thrown. Parros sees this from across the ice and knows he's being called to duty. He drops his gloves and cruises toward Patrick Bordeleau, Colorado's goon. Fists are raised. Parros tries to grab Bordeleau's jersey, his old trick. But he's rusty. Instead, Bordeleau grabs Parros' sweater, turning the tables on him, and whacks the back of his head, then the side, then his cheek. Reeling, Parros tries to return fire, without luck. They spin in circles, a blur of punches landed and missed.
The crowd gets rowdy. It's a long fight, over 20 seconds, and Bordeleau seems to want it over. He tackles Parros around the neck and throws him toward the ice. Parros is hurtling face-first, the one-in-a-thousand long shot again. His legs are in the air, above his head. Parros manages to twist himself and land on his shoulder. He flops on the ice but rises quickly to his feet, a subtle act of defiance and resilience. He fist-bumps a teammate and settles into the penalty box, still a symbol, he insists, of nothing.