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Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Leafs-Habs: Parros injury dims rivalry game

By Pierre LeBrun


MONTREAL -- A thrill-a-minute hockey game, fueled by early season mistakes and opening night jitters, had the folks at the Bell Centre on the edge of their seats.

The NHL’s most passionate theater to watch the sport had fans gasping for air, as the Original Six rival Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens exchanged chances like a game of shinny.

It was great stuff.

And then an unfortunate and scary scene absolutely sucked the life out of the building.

New Habs tough guy George Parros, in his second fight of the game with Leafs enforcer Colton Orr, fell awkwardly to the ice and smashed his face, immediately knocking himself out.

Out came the stretcher as fans held their breath, a riveting hockey game just not quite the same afterward, even with Montreal making things interesting with a late goal to make it 4-3 as Toronto still held on for the win.

The thoughts in both dressing rooms were channeled toward Parros, one of the game’s most likeable characters.

George Parros
George Parros suffered a concussion after landing on his face in a fight with the Leafs' Colton Orr.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle coached the tough guy in Anaheim for many years. "Great person, he was a great guy to coach," Carlyle said after his team’s season-opening victory. "Just real unfortunate."

But what you were not going to get from either Carlyle or his counterpart Michel Therrien of the Canadiens was an attempt to conjure up the fighting debate in this league. Both are old-school coaches who believe in the importance of fighting in the game, and Tuesday night’s incident certainly wasn’t going to change their views.

"Just bad luck in that situation," said Therrien, who was relieved to hear the concussed Parros was alert after he got to the dressing room. He later went to hospital. "You don’t see those situations a lot. He fell and hit his face on the ice."

The incident instantly spurred debate on social media, just as it always does.

I don’t need to sit on my soap box again on this night. I said my peace last season when Ottawa Senators forward Dave Dziurzynski was knocked out by Leafs tough guy Frazer McLaren.

Everyone who reads me understands that I believe the game could survive without fighting. My belief is simply based on my fear that one day a player will die in a fight on the ice. Pure and simple. I say that because Don Sanderson did die in a Senior A Ontario game fight in 2009.

Am I concerned how the game would look if the "rats" in our game weren’t policed? Yes, I am. And I don’t have a good answer for that other than I’d hope the refs would police it as well as they could.

And you cannot discount the emotional lift that some fights do provide in games. The Habs seemed buoyed by Parros’ first fight with Orr, as well as Travis Moen taking on Mark Fraser.

I totally understand that and do not argue that fights in games have an impact. No question, they do.

But I come back to my one and only concern, the only one I’ve ever held on the sensitive subject: I’m worried we’ll have a tragic incident one day, because today’s players are just stronger and bigger than ever.

When Parros does recover and speaks his first words with local Montreal media, I can guarantee he’ll say it’s part of the job and he understands the risks involved. He’s a thoughtful and intelligent person who long ago accepted what went along with his trade.

But the debate will rage on every time we see something like Tuesday night’s incident.

Other observations from Toronto’s opening night win over the Habs: