TAMPA, Fla. – George Parros is still dealing with the reverberations from a suspension he handed down nearly two weeks ago.
The mere fact he was called on at Saturday’s board of governors meeting to explain why Anaheim’s Andrew Cogliano was given a two-game suspension – and why Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings got away with a $10,000 fine – gives you a pretty good idea why many feel his is the most thankless job in hockey.
But it also offers a window into how Parros intends to run the NHL’s department of player safety. He’s not afraid to stand up and take bullets after tough decisions. The Cogliano suspension ended the player’s incredible 830-game iron-man streak and still has the Ducks upset today.
“Cogliano had an unbelievable run there, a streak, and the last thing that I wanted to do was get in the way of history,” said Parros. “When things arise, sensational issues arise, I think it’s very important for our department to get out ahead of those and explain. Explain things, explain any questions, own up to them and I’m happy to do that always.
“We make a lot of decisions that aren’t always met with great accord.”
Indeed, after the board of governors meeting wrapped up, Parros had a long conversation in the hallway with Ducks vice-president of hockey operations David McNab that appeared to get fairly animated at points.
One governor described the Cogliano decision as a “good early test” for Parros because of the iron-man streak and the fact he was a former teammate of the Ducks forward.
“And George passed it,” said the governor.
Cogliano’s suspension stemmed from a late head hit on Kings forward Adrian Kempe in a Jan. 13 game. Some felt the player should be shown leniency because Kempe wasn’t hurt and Cogliano had a clean record, but that didn’t jive with established precedents.
More than a second had passed since Kempe got rid of the puck, making it one of the “very latest” interference incidents the department of player safety has seen, according to Parros.
“[We’ve had] players suspended for hits that didn’t occur as late as Cogliano’s with zero head contact,” he added. “So we felt like we did the right job, we used the correct comparables, we thought about things the right way. It’s really unfortunate that this had happened.
“We remain confident in our decisions and we go about them all the same way. This is where we get our consistency from.”
In the case of a cross-check from Brown on Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz, he told the governors that it wasn’t delivered with the same force as suspensions in the past. The $10,000 fine was the maximum allowable under the rules in the collective bargaining agreement.
“The Brown incident and the Cogliano incident are two different animals,” said Parros. “It’s apples to oranges, really. Cogliano’s was an interference with significant head contact, Dustin Brown’s was a cross-checking or boarding incident. It’s very natural to want to compare the two and the forces involved and the situations, but they’re quite different.”
Parros is in his first season with a job that doesn’t tend to have a high retention rate. Predecessors Stephane Quintal and Brendan Shanahan each lasted just three years as the head disciplinarian.
Part of the challenge is that the person occupying that seat is always going to have to make tough decisions involving individuals and organizations that they have a fondness for. During Cogliano’s disciplinary hearing, there were a lot of different emotions at play.
“As you know for me, it was an incredibly challenging thing,” said Parros. “The Anaheim community was a community I was deeply entrenched in and very proud to be a part of, and Cogs was a former teammate of mine, a friend.
“I can’t describe to you how tough it was, but this is the job that I signed up for.”