The Hockey News, as most of you already know, is the elite when it comes to coverage of the National Hockey League across North America. However, over the years, they’ve become more of a “hot take central” rather than a source of careful, considerate content like it was over a decade ago. Wednesday afternoon, the NHL announced that former enforcer, George Parros, was hired to head the league’s Department of Player Safety.
Ken Campbell, THN’s lead writer, is very much what we would call “anti-enforcer.” He’ll put guys like Sidney Crosby on a diamond-crested bar stool but won’t give guys like John Scott the time of day.
Remember when Scott was voted into the 2016 NHL All Star Game and the NHL pettishly tried to talk him out of going but fan uproar allowed him to play?
Remember how special Scott made the All Star Game and arguably made it the most memorable out of all of the ASG’s that preceded it?
Remember that powerful image of John holding his two young daughters in his arms while he was being named most valuable player after all the BS the NHL put him through?
Can you instantly recall any memories of any past All-Star Games that didn’t involve Scott?
Neither can I.
Campbell, however, wasn’t as amused and was thrilled when the NHL eliminated the chances of another John Scott-scenario ever happening again.
John Scott is just a primary example of a long line of enforcers that are seen with a dim light by some of these “NHL elites.” George Parros is another one of those men, and after the announcement, Campbell then rolled out his own “piece,” if you can even call it that, on the issue. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, an unreadable mess about how Parros’ hire was horrible hire because he played the role he was meant to play on the ice…enforcer. Throughout his 474-game NHL career, Parros racked up 1,042 penalty minutes and fought 169 times. Yet, somehow, this immediately disqualified him from the job in Campbell’s eyes.
Parros was never suspended in his career. He’s also a Princeton University alumnus, graduated with a 3.18 grade point average, and scored a 1,250 on his SAT’s.
Campbell then lobbed this “nuclear hurricane” of a hot take…
“We get it. He’s bright. So put him in a business development department or make him part of the league’s financial team. Perhaps he could be one of the lead negotiators with the players on CBA matters. After all, he majored in economics and wrote his thesis about a longshoreman’s dispute. And he definitely has the business savvy, having established a clothing line that goes by the name Violent Gentlemen. Good grief. This is a department that is supposed to at least give people the perception that it takes player safety seriously. So appointing a guy with more than 1,000 PIMs and 169 fights sends all the wrong messages. Surely someone in the league’s head office must have red-flagged this appointment. Maybe not. There’s a lot of evidence to show that these people don’t really care what people think about them.”
What a godawful message to send, NHL. How dare you hire a highly educated man that had never been suspended once in his career, has been in those on-ice situations and would know how to respond. For shame. Bettman and the fellas on Park Avenue should’ve hired Larry from down the street who has never been on the ice once in his life and didn’t know what hockey was until we name dropped him ten seconds ago. At least Larry hasn’t taken part in such violence in a contact sport. Because that’s what hockey is… a contact sport.
As much as some of these newer age fans want to disagree and believe physicality doesn’t belong in the game, it absolutely does. That said, there are times when things get too heated and disciplinary action should be handed out. Cheapshots/headshots used to be the main focus, but now that Parros is in charge, he plans to take a harder look on slashing specifically.
“We used to be worried about headhunting and major things like that,” Parros said, “Now we’re worried about slashing and some more minor infractions, you might say. So the game’s in a good place. There doesn’t need to be a huge shake-up, a huge change in philosophy. I’ve always thought that they could have been a bit harsher on certain plays that I felt where clearly someone intended to do something that was away from the play, had nothing to do with the game and no benefit other than to disable or hurt a person. Just trying to go a little bit harder on those, because I felt it’s been soft in some instances.”
Slashing… I wonder why he wants to take a harder look at slashing. Oh, yeah, I remember.
Thus lies one of the biggest problems with Campbell and these newer age fans who believe enforcers have zero place on this planet and are the root of all evil. When a super star likes Crosby does something cheap, it’s somehow the enforcers who get victimized, and that’s led to the sparse amount of enforcers in today’s game. To hell with the officials, enforcers are the true policemen on the ice. Who else is going to keep somebody on the other team in line when they start mouthing off and trying to take out one of your teammates? Who else literally bleeds for the jersey they wear for the betterment of his teammates? The day enforcers die will be a sad day for the sport because it will allow more cheap shots like the one above and it will become a lot more apparent.
So can we please stop with the notion that all enforcers are the scum of the Earth? For those that have been inside a hockey locker room, more than often those guys are the backbone of the room that play an irreplaceable role and are some of the greatest humans you’ll ever meet. Now more than ever, it is clear that they don’t get nearly the amount of appreciation they deserve.
This affects the minor leagues too. As the NHL is turning their backs on these guys more and more, they’re beginning to trickle back to their roots in the minors. For the ECHL fans, those names are most notably of Trevor Gillies in South Carolina and Garet Hunt in Jacksonville. Gillies isn’t as innocent as Parros, but they both played similar roles. Just like you have a job, and a role you play at your workplace, these guys all have one job on the ice, and that’s to protect their teammates when someone steps out of line.
All of this comes back to why Parros was hired to lead the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. If they didn’t care in the slightest about player safety, they would’ve hired some hack that just wanted to soften hockey by making it a “safe space” where nothing can touch you. Like I’ve already said, Parros has walked that line himself many, many times, and knows precisely what crosses that line and what doesn’t. Hiring a former enforcer to protect his players, which are now the entire league instead of just one team, is the right move.
It is a thankless job, and to me, this is why enforcers will always have a spot in the game of hockey, be it off the ice or on because the game would be in a much darker place without them around. So, to those few remaining enforcers left, we salute you, good sirs.
As a matter of fact, for those reading this, I encourage you to show Mr. Ken Campbell and the rest of the anti-enforcer group where the real money is by supporting and watching Ice Guardians. Ice Guardians is an incredible, nearly two-hour documentary about the lives of actual enforcers and they went through to live out their dreams in the pro hockey world, despite not being as skilled. You can permanently buy it on DVD or for $15 to stream online from Vimeo, or you can rent it for just $4 for just 48 hours. Either way, buy it and watch it. Now.