The Fighting Duck (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday February 6, 2007 8:35AM; Updated: Tuesday February 6, 2007 8:35AM
Like the arc of a roundhouse right, NHL brawling might be in its descent -- fighting majors fell from 1,561 in 2003-04 to 919 last season and are on pace to hit 973 this year -- but it remains entrenched in the culture. A Death of the Goon cover story in The Hockey News in October felt as premature as Time's wondering in 1966 if God was dead. (The goon, by the by, was alive and well and eating a chicken-and-portobello-mushroom sandwich in a pub outside the Anaheim rink last week.) There are, of course, different paradigms for winning; Carolina was 28th in fighting majors en route to the 2006 Stanley Cup. Currently 19 of 30 teams carry a heavyweight, defined here as someone who plays eight minutes or less a game and whose principal role is either as a fighter or as a sort of nuclear deterrent. "Part of me is old-time hockey; I love the fights," says right wing Teemu Selanne, who leads the Ducks with 31 goals. "It feels good to have a tough guy in the lineup. I look at it as insurance."
NHL fights are like the chorus in Greek drama, a pause in the narrative that comments on the spectacle: Did a team need to change the game's momentum? Send a message to a chippy team? Engage the crowd? And like Greek drama, fights are often scripted. No, not the results. (This season at least half a dozen NHL players have been injured in fights, including New Jersey's Cam Janssen, who dislocated his shoulder battling Parros on Nov. 24.) Just the starts. Parros usually asks, "Do you want to give me a fight?" -- a delightfully rococo way of expressing the common "Wanna go?"
With 32 NHL fights, Parros, 27, is a relative newcomer. He grew up in comfortable circumstances in New Jersey and never had a fight, on or off the ice, until his first full season in the minors in 2003-04. (Los Angeles's eighth-round draft choice in 1999, Parros played nine games in the AHL the previous spring, finishing his senior thesis on the economic impact of the '02 West Coast longshoremen's lockout while on a bus ride to a game.) He has been schooled by teammates in the art and protocol of hockey fighting, and last summer he worked with a boxing instructor in L.A. The 6'5", 225-pound Parros tends to be a counterpuncher -- last month the one time he was overly aggressive, he was bloodied by a blind swing from Columbus's Jody Shelley -- and has a 4-4-3 record in '06-07, at least according to voters on hockeyfights.com, The Ring magazine of hockey's pugilistic subculture. That website, says Parros, "might as well be my home page." He downloads fight clips on a PlayStation Portable and studies opponents, "just like getting ready for a test at school."
Parros hopes to eventually spend more time dissecting goalies than roughnecks. He aspires to be a third-line regular and the guy in front of the net on power plays, a more complete player, like Ottawa's Chris Neil, a tough nut whose hands and smarts allow him to play on any line. For the moment Parros wants to gain the complete trust of coach Randy Carlyle, which means tailoring his play to the situation and handling the rough stuff. "Do we win every fight?" Carlyle said. "No. But we show up for most of them."
In other words, when you play Anaheim, duck.