Sprawling hills nestled into a scenic suburban setting is not what most people picture when they think of New Jersey. Then again, an all-academic performer from Princeton University isn’t typically associated with the title of NHL enforcer, either.
But so goes George Parros, the mustachioed, longhaired NHL tough guy with an Economics degree from an Ivy League university. Intelligent and articulate in conversation, Parros may just have the vernacular to trash talk circles around opposing enforcers when he takes to the ice for the Anaheim Ducks.
Though born in Pennsylvania, Parros spent the majority of his childhood in Randolph, a suburb located within the New Jersey Highlands and a town where, according to Parros, hockey was more of an afterthought in comparison to football.
Parros played high school hockey at the Delbarton School in Morristown during his teen years, and while he won Rookie of the Year honors followed by All-State recognition as an upper classman, he admits that he didn’t expect to play after graduation due to a lack of exposure and emphasis on hockey in his area.
As fate would have it, Parros lived only an hour from Princeton University and caught his big break when he was noticed during an offseason event.
“I was in a summer tournament, and one of Princeton’s goalies was working the camp and they told him to watch me play,” said the 6-foot-5, 229-pound forward. “They happened to like what they saw.”
Richard Bachman Even The Stars Are Getting On The Parros Bandwagon
Rapper Snoop Dogg & Actor Michael Rosenbaum pose with their 'staches.“George Parros Mustaches” are sold at the Anaheim Ducks team store inside the Honda Center, with the proceeds going to charity.
It’s almost hard to believe now, when looking at Parros and his intimidating frame, but the Tigers asked him to play a season of Junior hockey with the Chicago Freeze of the North American Hockey League in order to mature physically before coming to campus.
After his year in Chicago, Parros would go on to play four years at Princeton, totaling 52 points (20 goals/32 assists) to go along with 119 penalty minutes in 111 career games for the Tigers. He was also named a three-time member of the ECAC All-Academic Team while earning a degree in Economics from one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions.
But does that Ivy League degree mean that if he wasn’t playing hockey, he would he be wearing a suit and tie on Wall Street – possibly as the world’s most intimidating stock broker?
“You know what? Everybody asks me that, but I’ve never really thought of anything except playing hockey,” said the 28-year old.
“It’s kind of what I was trained for, but I never applied for any jobs or anything like that. Hockey was always my favorite sport and something I wanted to do for as long as I can remember.”
Even with a deep passion and commitment to the game, Parros hit a few bumps in the road when attempting to continue his career after college. Playing in his first professional season with the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs, he struggled with the realization that he would have to adjust his game to suit a new style of play.
Parros readily admits that he began to lose his feel for the game upon receiving reduced ice time, and realized his offensive abilities weren’t going to punch his ticket onto an NHL roster. Instead, he adjusted on the fly and began using his large frame to fill the role of an enforcer for Manchester.
“It was tough going from Princeton, where I played lots of minutes and was an important part of the offense, to being an enforcer,” said Parros.
“But that’s fine, because it’s what got my foot in the door. I’m happy to fill my role now, but it was certainly an adjustment. Sometimes it’s tough to accept a new role at the beginning, but it got me where I am.”
Parros became a testament to the concept of finding and perfecting one’s niche when he stepped onto the ice at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Oct. 5, 2005 for his NHL debut as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. At that moment, he became only the seventh player in Princeton history to grace NHL ice – a fact that brings a great deal of pride to Parros.
“Princeton isn’t exactly known as a pipeline to the NHL, so I felt very fortunate to make it. I always looked up to the guys who made it in the past,” he said. “That’s obviously the goal and the dream, but it’s not always a reality. I’m very proud to be the seventh, and I’m going to try and stick around as long as I can.”
After appearing in 55 games with the Kings in 2005-06 and starting the following season with the Colorado Avalanche, Parros was traded to the Ducks in November 2006, where he appeared in 32 regular season games and five playoff contests as a part of Anaheim’s fourth line as the team won the 2007 Stanley Cup, an experience he tabbed “A dream come true.”
Despite his limited role, Parros has developed a rabid following among Ducks fans, many of whom wear false mustaches and carry signs reading “Beware of the ’Stache,” in honor of the thick black mustache that he grows during the season.
“George Parros Mustaches” are also sold at the Anaheim Ducks team store inside the Honda Center, with the proceeds going to charity.
While raising the Stanley Cup occupies the dreams of both youth hockey players and NHL veterans alike, Parros feels as though he still has plenty to prove. Working hard to become a more complete player, Parros saw his ice time increase this year while playing in more games than any other season of his NHL career.
“Eventually I’d like to become more of a player who can be counted on in all situations; someone who can just play the game,” said Parros.
“I really don’t mind dropping the gloves, but I would like to eventually get back to the way I started playing the game.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow For a Good Cause
Much has been made of George Parros’ “hockey hair,” which, when coupled with his throwback-style mustache, evokes memories of the NHL’s signature look during the 1980s.
As a student-athlete at Princeton University, Parros and his teammates were expected to maintain a clean-cut appearance that reflected the school’s upstanding reputation – meaning he was not able to go more than a few weeks without visiting a barber.
But after leaving the ivy-covered halls of Princeton, Parros decided to let his locks flow during his first year of professional hockey. He let his jet-black hair grow out all summer and into his first training camp with the Manchester Monarchs, until one day when, as Parros says, “it started to get out of hand.”
“My teammates said that it couldn’t cross my name bar, because that would be embarrassing.
I didn’t want to be like Mike Ricci or anything,” Parros quipped, in reference to the 16-year NHL veteran known for his flowing hair. “So I had to chop it off.”
When word spread that Parros was planning to cut his mane, an employee with the Monarchs turned the forward toward the Locks of Love charity, which helps financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.