George Parros is known for many things. That mustache. That Princeton degree. Those 1,092 penalty minutes during his NHL career, played mostly with the Anaheim Ducks.
Now, he’ll be known as the NHL’s senior vice president of player safety. According to Pierre LeBrun and Elliotte Friedman, Parros is taking over for Stephane Quintal this season, with Quintal remaining with the department but expanding his duties to other projects within the NHL front office.
Parros joined the NHL Department of Player Safety – the group tasked with handing out supplemental discipline for illegal and injurious plays – in Sept. 2016, joining Quintal and Chris Pronger as notable former players in the department’s brain-trust. The department was founded in 2011 under then-senior vice president Brendan Shanahan, who you might remember from his delightful suspension videos.
(Friedman reports that recently retired Shane Doan could replace Pronger in the department, with the latter having moved to a front office position in Florida.)
Promoting Parros is a smart decision by the NHL.
Let’s address this weirdness first: There’s a bizarre pushback from some fans when the NHL adds a player with significant career penalty minutes to the department. While there is an argument to be made that a Paul Kariya type could lend a different perspective to the decision-making process, the bottom line is that Paul Kariya types aren’t typically the ones running afoul of the department – it’s George Parros types that do.
So it’s a bit like hiring a reformed criminal to test your company’s security system: They know the mindset and the dirty tricks. And, to further that, they know what they’re looking for when it comes to hearings with players that are either genuinely contrite or running some B.S. to shave a game off their ban.
Why I like Parros: He inherently understands the balance of the job. Yes, it’s about retroactively punishing players for heinous acts, and it’s about educating repeat offenders about their continuing malicious behavior. But it’s also about being the sheriff without being draconian about it. Parros has said his player safety task is “trying to ensure the players stay safe and maintain a physical level of play in the league in general.”
Here’s Parros, to Puck Daddy last season, on how he feels about Player Safety:
“It’s of the utmost importance. I was a player. I consider it a brotherhood and I want to make sure no one is out there – we don’t like to see people get hurt and we certainly don’t like to have to suspend anybody but we prefer to have a very quiet room here. We don’t like to see anybody get hurt. We don’t like to suspend anybody for any sort of foul play, but it does happen and we add direction to how the players view certain plays and dangerous plays. For me, when I played, my number one concern was making sure my players felt as if they were in a safe environment and weren’t getting taken advantage of. It has kind of been in my DNA for a long time.”
It’s good to swap out the leader of the department every few years because you basically set the suspension dial back to zero. The “new guy” can established his own set of precedents and standards.
Here’s hoping that Parros’s standards are more stringent than Quintal’s. With due respect, when Shanahan was running the department, many of the arguments were over the length of suspensions; under Quintal, there were more complaints about players not being suspended at all for clear infractions. In 2016-17, there were 24 player safety suspensions for 52 games. In 2015-16, there were 32 for 89 games (that doesn’t include the 41 games given to Raffi Torres). So you’re not imagining things.
Parros is the right guy to course correct this while also maintaining that balance between the inherent violence in hockey and the necessity for supplemental discipline that players cross the line.
Look, the Department of Player Safety is never going to get it totally right, and it’s hands are perpetually tied by a CBA that only allows minuscule fines for those infractions that might not rise to the level of suspensions. But that the very least, they’ve allowed fans to understand the process better.
Nothing wrong with a former enforcer running player safety. Especially one who knew the line. “I never once got fined or suspended while I played my time and I played about as physical as anybody, so I felt it was a pretty good fit for me,” Parros said last year.