XN Sports writer Sean Hartnett spoke exclusively with George Parros after the beloved enforcer announced his retirement on Friday. In this exclusive chat, Parros discusses his pride in representing the Anaheim Ducks, his final chapter with the Montreal Canadiens, his New Jersey upbringing, his charitable endeavors, that time Snoop Dogg wore his jersey, and his post-career desires.
For nine seasons, 6-foot-5 winger George Parros established himself as one of the NHL’s premier enforcers. Parros was a throwback to fighting’s glory days, sporting a retro 70’s mustache that paid tribute to legendary scrappers of yesteryear.
After recording 1,092 career penalty minutes over 474 games, the popular heavyweight winger is calling it a day. On Friday, Parros announced his retirement at the age of 34 through the NHLPA.
Parros began his career with the Los Angeles Kings, suiting up for 55 games during his 2005-06 rookie campaign. Ahead of the 2006-07 season, Parros was waived by the Kings and picked up by the Colorado Avalanche. After a two-game stint with Avs, he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. It was there that Parros caught on and made a name for himself. He immediately became a firm fan-favorite in the O.C.
“It was some of the best years of my life,” Parros said. “I played with some of my closest friends there. It was such a great group of guys. The fans in Orange County are unreal and supportive of everything I’ve done throughout my career. My fondest memories came from Orange County, the Honda Center and playing for the fans of the Ducks.”
Such was Parros’ popularity that rapper Snoop Dogg was spotted wearing a No. 16 Parros jersey and a replica mustache during the 2007 playoffs. The Honda Center began selling fake Parros mustaches with the proceeds going to charity.
“That was pretty unreal,” Parros said. “We’ve seen him rock NHL jerseys in his videos in the past. He was such an icon. For him to show up wearing the mustache and the whole deal, that was pretty unreal. Keep in mind – that was only my second year in the league. I was a kid in a candy store. I was the happiest you could imagine. The only reason why it happened was because Ducks fans embraced me as a player and a fighter and embraced the mustache, I guess. The whole reason why we were selling the mustache in the store was because the support of our team. Having Snoop Dogg rock the mustache was clearly a result of the passion in Orange County.”
“Being able to play with Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer was an unreal experience for me,” Parros said. “Teemu is by far one of the classiest people I’ve ever played with it. It was a lot of fun to be there alongside those guys.”
Parros proved he was a gentle giant throughout his career by involving himself with numerous charitable causes at every turn of his career. He credits his parents Jim and Lynne and his experiences at Roman Catholic prep school Delbarton for shaping his character and willingness to give back to the community.
“I think a lot of that starts with your upbringing,” Parros said. “Certainly, being raised by my parents – they made me aware there’s someone always less fortunate than you. I credit my high school of Delbarton in New Jersey. It was a Catholic high school, they instilled in us that ethos of giving back. I think that’s pretty much what cultivated it. It’s important to make sure you’re looking out for those in your community and those less fortunate. Giving back is a huge part of life in general. I know being on a big stage in the NHL helps you draw in certain causes that were on a higher scale that some normal people. I knew I had to take advantage of that. It’s something I like to do and have done since high school.”
Parros became involved with a number of worthy charities including Locks of Love, the Garth Brooks Teammates For Kids Foundation, and Movember.
“Having worked with teams like the Anaheim Ducks and their community relations departments – it made it so much easier,” Parros said. “They’re top-notch. They helped do everything I wanted to do. The Samuelis, the owners did such a great job of reaching out to the community, which I really liked and appreciated.”
Parros was proud to help pave the way for a growing number of New Jerseyans who’ve followed in his footsteps. He was selected 222nd overall by the Kings in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
“I grew up mostly in New Jersey from third grade on,” Parros said. “It’s a football state more than anything. Growing up there was a little bit different. You were an outcast being a hockey player because it wasn’t the thing to do. Being able to push the pace and make it was pretty incredible. The only guy we had to look up to was Jim Dowd as a New Jersey NHL player. He was a shining example of what a pro should be.
“I’m very proud to have come from a great state. You see a lot of guys now with great skill coming out of New Jersey. In fact, James van Riesmdyk went to the rival school of Christian Brothers Academy. Hopefully, there’s more talent coming out of the state.”
Before Parros retired, he spent one final season with the Montreal Canadiens. Despite suffering a second career concussion and playing a limited role, Parros greatly appreciated his final season with the Habs.
“I valued my time in Montreal greatly,” Parros said. “It was a really fun experience. I’m glad I got the chance to play in a big hockey market like that. Hockey is a religion up there. You get a sense of that with every step you take when walking through Bell Centre and the training center. They’ve got the hockey legends up on the wall. You still see some of the old faces and names. It was a very interesting and surreal experience. It was very cool to have put on the same sweater and be a small part of that team’s history.”
Parros has a Princeton education and co-founded thriving hockey-themed clothing line Violent Gentleman. He could be successful in a number of post-NHL career options. Now that his playing days have come to an end, Parros says his desire is to remain in hockey.
“I’m still trying to figure it out,” Parros said. “I definitely want to stay in the game of hockey. We’ll kind of see what comes my way. I’m trying to sort things out now. We’ll be seeing more of me. I’ll be showing up around the rinks – who knows where just yet. I’m certainly looking forward to the next phase of my life, staying in the business of hockey and helping grow the game.”