I want to take a break from talking about the Montreal Canadiens' latest drama involving Therrien and the team’s overall mediocre play for the last few weeks. I want to talk about our friend George Parros. Has anyone seen him lately? You probably glanced at him in the dressing room or watched him giving an interview on RDS. We barely see Parros dressed in uniform for game nights… unless you consider his uniform to be a suit. The story of Parros and the Canadiens is definitely no Cinderella story. By all means, injury on the first game is getting off on the wrong foot. Despite being cleared for play earlier this month, the enforcer has not seen much action on the ice. In my opinion, it is for the best. After his fight with Eric Boulton, it became clear to me that Parros should stop fighting, completely. As an athlete in a high contact sport, you are more likely to face multiple blows to the head, whether you are an enforcer or not.
With BellLetsTalk hashtags floating around Twitter this week, I can’t help but think about the millions of people suffering from mental illness in silence, living under the perpetual shadow of darkness which reigns over their consciousness day in and day out. The scary part is that a person suffering from depression could be the happy-go-lucky fellow you see every day at work, the individual whose life seems so perfect, who you might even secretly envy. In hockey, the losses of Wade Belak, Rick Rypien, and Derek Boogaard, serve as constant reminders of how little we really know about people, beyond the surface of the skin. You look at a guy like Belak, for example, and his story doesn't sound as typical as those of Rypien’s and Boogaard’s. In fact, he openly talked about his battle with depressive symptoms to his close friends, which is something you don’t see very often with people suffering from depression. Despite his openness and overall cheery mood, something was churning deep inside him that led him to suicide. Something so horrible that overcame any desire to live took over these three men to death. Yes, Boogaards’ death was accidental; his addiction to painkillers was not. More and more research is showing the increased risk for developing clinical depression after suffering multiple concussions. But hey, why should the NHL care? They’re only dealing with people’s lives here…
All three men, like Parros, were enforcers. They have each suffered multiple concussions. Unfortunately, fighting in the NHL is welcome and used to promote a tough and exciting image for the league. You just need to go down to Boston or Philadelphia, where a large portion of their pre-game graphics involve their players beating the crap out of their opponents, rather than demonstrating the skill so many have cultivated and developed since they were children. The essence of hockey shouldn't be based on a culture dependent in violence; hockey, more than ever, needs to embed its identity in that of the talent, strategy, and dedication players express game in and game out.
I don’t want to undermine the role of enforcers in the National Hockey League. Clearly, it is the hardest, most physically and psychologically taxing role to willingly take on. The sacrifices that players, like Parros, make to stay in the league are a testament to their devotion to the game. Taking away this role can ruin the dreams of many players whose skill level is inadequate to get them very far in hockey. In the grand scheme of things, an enforcer is lucky to stay in the league for an extended period of time anyway. Statistics have shown that the average career span of a professional ice hockey player is 5.5 years. In the grand scheme of things, all players retire and move on with their lives, much more centred on family. Is it worth it then, even if it’s for a brief period of time, to fight and risk the state of your long-term and immediate health, for a taste or a few more bites at the dream of playing in the NHL? From a player’s perspective, probably. And you can’t blame them for wanting to chase a dream,.but at what cost?