Parros ’03 fills the unlikely role of NHL enforcer

Princeton has produced multiple Nobel Prize, National Medal of Science, and Pulitzer Prize winners. It never had a Stanley Cup winner, however, until George Parros ’03.

“I’m pretty proud of that,” said Parros, a right wing for the Anaheim Ducks, last season’s NHL champions, and holder of what might be the Class of 2003’s most unusual occupation, a highly visible position in ... uh ... security.

Parros is an enforcer, in hockey parlance, called on to fight opponents’ tough guys to discourage them from harassing his own team’s more skilled players. Princeton didn’t exactly prepare him for this line of work — fisticuffs are forbidden in college hockey — and the job contrasts with the stereotype of an Ivy Leaguer.

“I know, I should be in a blue blazer and ascot,” Parros said, smiling. “Maybe a cardigan.”

Nevertheless, when people drop their jaws at his educational background, he does not drop the gloves. Not even if they wonder why he isn’t in law school. “I’m living a dream, have no shame,” Parros said. “I was going to try hockey first and worry about the real world later. I didn’t want to have any regrets.”

Today, most of the regrets belong to the hulking, snarling counterparts who challenge Parros on the ice. Hockey enforcers typically reach the pros by fighting their way through junior hockey leagues in Canada. Parros was a teddy bear by comparison, with a background that includes youth hockey in Washington, Pa., Columbus, Ohio, and Randolph, N.J. But in the last few seasons, he has become one of the NHL’s most feared brawlers.

Drafted in the eighth round by the Los Angeles Kings in 1999, almost entirely because of his 6-foot, 5-inch frame, Parros attended the Kings’ summer development camps, where his aggressive nature in the corners and the front of the net would lead to occasional fights.

“I had only two [fights] in junior hockey and didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “I pretty much just fell over, had terrible balance.”

Parros figured it would be better to learn to defend himself against the kids in the development camps rather than against the pros. And when he began to win more scraps than he lost, he came to understand that fighting could be the ticket to the NHL for a player who scored only 20 goals in his four years at Princeton. Ryan Flinn, a tough guy also trying to make the Kings, provided some tips. But mostly Parros learned through his experiences on the ice.

In Orange County, Parros’ engaging personality and bushy mustache have made him hugely popular among fans. And according to Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, diligent practice has helped Parros become a more versatile player. “You can trust him [defensively] when the intensity or importance of the game goes up,” Carlyle said.

Parros joined Anaheim in November 2006 when the Ducks traded a second-round pick to Colorado. (He had previously signed with the Avalanche after being waived by the Kings.) “It was tough getting here, not fun moving around, but it’s like the bingo balls were shuffling in the drum and I ended up in the right spot,” he said. “I feel like I have found a home.”

Meanwhile, he has not forgotten his old one. Every Stanley Cup winner gets a summer day with the most fabled trophy in North American sports, and Parros spent part of his at Baker Rink, making Hobey proud, to paraphrase the banner that hangs from the rink’s balcony.

“To have a Cup winner is important to the program and I had great years at Princeton,” he said. “I had to take it back and share it.”