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The Parros Effect: Yzerman, Shero, GMs look to eliminate fighting from NHL
That clip above and the injury that follows should probably be left to don the banner of another story. George Parros has fought more times than anyone reading this, and he seems to enjoy it – he seems to relish in his role. Colton Orr gets by the same way, and he fought five times in Tuesday night's season opener against the Montreal Canadiens. Five times.
Parros's injury was a fluke. That fall could have happened in the corner chasing a puck, it could have happened on a breakaway gone bad, and it could have happened crossing street.
But it didn't. It happened in a fight.
"Yes, I believe a player should get a game misconduct for fighting," Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman told TSN's Darren Dreger.
"We penalize and suspend players for making contact with the head while checking, in an effort to reduce head injuries, yet we still allow fighting."
Normally, if Yzerman's misconduct rule was in play, Parros would be the penalized. But, on Tuesday, he was the victim. It was Parros who went Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump over Orr's crumbling body. It was Parros who was carted off the ice at the Bell Centre. And it's Parros's injury that has revived the debate surrounding fighting and hockey and heads – as if that debate ever went away. The nature of his injury will only complicate the matter more, but the matter is here to stay.
On Wednesday, three NHL general managers – Yzerman included, along with Carolina's Jim Rutherford and Pittsburgh's Ray Shero – weighed in, and their comments could tell us more about the state of fighting in hockey than any of the blustering winds blown in from Brian Burke's huff-and-puff, tie-slightly-undone stage rants ever could.
The trio of GMs were then joined by legendary coach Scotty Bowman, who Tweeted his support:
I support views of Steve Yzerman Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford on their opinions for Addressing most Fighting Issues Poll all Players— scott bowman (@coachwsb) October 2, 2013
"It's a pretty complex issue," Bowman told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun. "But with the emphasis on hits to the head, and the seriousness of concussions, if you look at fighting, it's mostly hits to the head. It's something that has to be looked at."
Fighters is an endangered species already – respected but gone Dodo – and the majority might not oppose it anymore.
"We're stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport do we want to be," Yzerman said. "Either anything goes and we accept the consequences, or take the next step and eliminate fighting."
A game misconduct would erase fighting's future in hockey, at least through a phase-out process, in the same way the grandfather rule will make visors universal and hybrid icing will soon become no-touch icing.
Yzerman knows this. He should, at least. Steve Y is one of the greatest players in NHL history, winning three Stanley Cups in 22 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. He retired as the league's sixth all-time points leader, and (as Dreger pointed out in his TSN article) played alongside several fighters like Darren McCarty and Bob Probert.
Carolina Hurricanes' general manager Jim Rutherford was a little more direct:
"We've got to get rid of fighting, it has to go."
And then there's Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero, whose father was the mastermind behing the nasty act deployed by the Philadelphia Flyers' 1970's Broad Street Bullies. Shero's taste for speed, skill, and all things Crosby-slash-Malkin is a bit of a switch on his Pops' violent squads from the Era of Disco, and the family's revolution hasn't stopped with their recruiting preferences... apparently.
Pittsburgh's Ray Shero has been a strong advocate in the league's crackdown on checking to the head. He believes that the NHL has a responsibility to consider a ban on fighting and not just simply raise the discussion when an isolated incident happens.
"It won't happen overnight, but we need to be leaders, not followers in this area," he explained. "I respect other GMs and their views, but we need to look at this and not just when an incident like last night (Parros) happens."
Parris was released from a Montreal hospital on Tuesday night, and was diagnosed with a concussion.