George Parros spent much of his career in the National Hockey League riding shotgun as one of the league’s most respected enforcers.
Now, the former Delbarton All-State forward has continued that same role since he retired – only now Parros is protecting the entire league in his position in Manhattan as the NHL’s Director of Player Safety.
The rugged New Jersey native was much more than a brawler on the ice, though. Parros skated from the scholastic ice at Delbarton to Hobey Baker Rink at Princeton, where he majored in Economics; and then won a Stanley Cup during a nine-year NHL career as a well-respected and feared enforcer.
Parros, who has served as the NHL Director of Player Safety since September of 2017, was an All-State forward and captain at Delbarton, collected 31 goals and 21 assists his senior season in leading the Green Wave to the 1998 Non-Public final. He fashioned an impressive NHL career in which he played 474 games and compiled 1,092 penalty minutes. He was inducted into the New Jersey High School Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
Parros’ NHL tour took him to stops with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens.
Earlier this week Parros, who won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, spoke with the HockeyClan from his office in Manhattan about his journey from the rinks in New Jersey to a Stanley Cup; and now to a key role with the NHL.
What do you remember most from your hockey days at Delbarton?
George Parros: “When I look back at my time going to school at Delbarton it was less about hockey and more about a building a sense of community. It’s a special place. Certainly, hockey was a big part of my life but the community with everyone that Delbarton creates and the preparation for school and lived served me well. From an academic aspect I think the workload there paid off in spades and helped me in going to Princeton. When you get to a formidable academic school like Princeton, and having to play hockey, the regimen I took from Delbarton really prepared me well. And that was even the case having played professional hockey and in being a public figure. That was the core part of what we did at Delbarton, and I also gained an appreciation for trying to give back to your community.”
Talk about Princeton playing days and what brought you there.
GP: “I wasn’t quite sure if I’d play hockey after high school. Back then, the guys who were the top players in New Jersey would usually go to play out of state in prep school if they wanted to continue their hockey career. That was where it was, and I wasn’t garnering that type of attention. No one was beating down my down my door and I wasn’t thinking about any prep school. I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to play high-level high school hockey and go to school at Delbarton. Then Princeton had spotted me, and they came calling.
“I had gone to Montreal in the summer with (Delbarton teammate) Pat Lonergan. His grandmother lived in Montreal and we both went up there to play. Erasmo Saltarelli (Princeton goalie who helped lead the Tigers to the 1998 ECAC championship) saw me play then and that put me on their radar. I guess it’s funny that I had to go up to Montreal and that’s where I was noticed. But it was a great opportunity to go to a superb school and play hockey, too. It was an easy decision for me to go to Princeton.
The three biggest influences on your career?
GP: “I would say Brian Day, my head coach when I was at Delbarton. Paul Silvester, an assistant coach at Delbarton, and then Bruce Shatel. He was my assistant coach back then too. You could tell Bruce was a coach on the rise at that time.”
Your NHL career and your role as an enforcer?
GP: “When I went to Princeton, they asked me to defer my freshman year for a season and come back the next year (1999-2000) because they had so many good players. So, I played junior and had a great year with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL and then I got drafted by the LA Kings (Eighth Round, 222nd overall in 1999). Now all of a sudden, I’m a big prospect. Being a bigger player who liked to hit, I figured I’d be asked to fight, too. I knew then I had to learn how to defend myself. Then I fought in some of those development camps and got my notoriety that way. When I was done at Princeton, I thought a career in the NHL was a possibility. I played in the King’s system for a couple of years and I wanted to play a physical game and fight. It was more of a mental aspect with the fighting, the nuances of the position of fighting and learning when the right time to fight was. I didn’t grow up fighting. I think it’s become less a part of the game now.”
Winning a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007?
GP: “It’s pretty unbelievable. In first year with the Kings I got put on waivers and I was picked up by the Colorado Avalanche. The Ducks were off to a fast start and their tough guy Todd Fedoruk got hurt, so they traded for me. I went from Los Angeles to Colorado and back to California with the Ducks all in about two months. They were a hot team and a Cup contender already when I got there. It was a tough team and I jelled right in. The rest was history. Winning the Stanley Cup was pretty spectacular. For a kid from Jersey who didn’t think he’d ever play hockey past high school to win the Cup? That was pretty special.”
[Parros is only the fourth New Jersey high school player to have earned a Stanley Cup ring along with Jim Dowd (Brick/New Jersey Devils), Trevor van Riemsdyk (CBA/Chicago Blackhawks) and John Carlson (St. Joseph of Metuchen/Washington Capitals)]
Growth of New Jersey hockey and your role in that rise?
GP: “I wouldn’t take credit for the dramatic increase in overall skill in New Jersey hockey. I think in general there has been such a great spike in talent and competitiveness in the state. Back when I played high school and before the really good players would go to prep school out of state. Now they stay and play in high school and with travel teams. Delbarton and other teams go out of New Jersey to play and do very well, and a lot of New Jersey players are going getting offers from top colleges now.”
[Delbarton and Don Bosco Prep just traveled north to Massachusetts on Dec. 14-16 and went 4-0 against three of that state’s top squads.]
Your role now as the NHL’s Head of the Department of Player Safety?
GP: “I always saw myself protecting the other 23 or 24 guys on my team. Now, I can try and protect the 700-plus players in the entire league. I was drawn to it for those reasons. It’s important work and I think having done what I have in my career gives me a unique perspective. I was a very physical player, but I never went over the line. I played nine seasons and was never fined or suspended.”
A typical day and what it can involve?
GP: “We are in-season now so I’m monitoring games every night. I’ll watch until the last game is played every night and then I’m in the office preparing for meetings with the Board of Governors or GM’s. I do travel around a lot and have meetings all over the league. It’s never-ending and the phone is always on hand. It’s a large blend of office work, meetings and game-watching. But I enjoy it.”
Advice for young New Jersey high school players?
GP: “There is such a great level of competition now. My best advice to the youth hockey player is have a good work ethic and a positive attitude and you can go far. I was never the cream of the crop. Many people might say they never thought George Parros would get this far. But I had a tremendous work ethic and always had a good attitude. I think those are great assets to a personal or team mentality. It can really pay off.”
[In the 1998 Non-Public championship between Delbarton and Seton Hall Prep, Parros and Seton Hall’s rugged forward Zach Hatcher met at center ice in perhaps the most infamous collision in New Jersey high school hockey history.]
Do you remember that hit?
GP: (laughing) “One of the biggest in state history! It’s funny, it definitely stands out in my mind. I absolutely remember that. He played the game like I did, very physical. We both started skating at either end of the ice almost and he took it out of his end and we just collided at center ice. I think I got the worst of it. It was a huge, thunderous open-ice hit. I think we both had each other lined up. In my mind I remember we were so far apart the hit seemed like it was lined up for ages. We knew each other and neither one backed away. I was pressing for that hit, but I buckled over after it and had to get to the bench. Every so often somebody will ask me about that hit.”
Your impact in your NHL role now?
GP: “I want to keep the game physical but as safe as possible. There is always a lot of pressure to make sure you’re making the right decisions and doing the right thing. You have to straddle the line between physicality and safety.”
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: George Parros #15 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 18, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Canadiens 5-3. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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