Vol. LXI, No. 35
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
HIS CUP RUNNETH OVER: George Parros acknowledges the cheers last Friday as he displayed the Stanley Cup at Princeton's Baker Rink. Parros, a 2003 PU grad who scored 45 points in his college career, won the Cup this past season playing for the Anaheim Ducks. He is the first Princeton player to play on a Stanley Cup winning team.
It was a journey that George Parros never thought he would have the opportunity to take.
Earlier in this past NHL season, Parros, a former Princeton University hockey star, fell out of favor with the Colorado Avalanche and thought he was about to be shipped to the minor leagues.
Instead, the Avs traded Parros to the Anaheim Ducks in November where the burly 6'5, 232-pound forward quickly found a home as an enforcer. The rugged, skilled Ducks went on to win the Stanley Cup, topping the Ottawa Senators in the final series.
In accordance with longstanding hockey tradition, Parros was entitled to have 24 hours with the Cup and last Friday was his day to squire hockey's holy grail.
Parros never had a moment's doubt that one of his stops during that day would be at Princeton's Baker Rink.
Just after 12:30 Friday afternoon, Parros, clad in his PU No. 33 jersey, Bermuda shorts, and flip-flops strode on the Baker Rink ice with the Cup hoisted above his head, drawing the cheers of a throng of PU officials, alums, hockey supporters, and local youth hockey players on hand.
After making some brief remarks, Parros, the first Princetonian to play for an NHL champion, spent the next 45 minutes posing for photos with the Cup, shaking hands, and soaking in the excitement permeating the building.
In reflecting on his trek to Baker with the Cup, Parros acknowledged that his championship run had been improbable to say the least.
"I was kind of bouncing around at the beginning of the year," said Parros, 27, who started the 2006-07 season by getting waived by the Los Angles Kings and then getting picked up by the Avs. "There was a lot of luck and fate involved. It was the result of hard work and sticking to what I do."
Parros was floored by the response he drew at Baker. "I didn't know what to expect; it was kind of overwhelming," said Parros with his heavy black mustache creasing over a wide grin.
"There were a lot of people in the stands; it was good to see. I love coming back here; I think it was one of the most beautiful rinks around, There is so much history here. I have a lot of fond memories here. To have the kids enjoy it was great."
While Princeton didn't win any titles during Parros' time there, his college experience helped shape him into the pro he has become.
"I had a great time there," said Parros, who played in 111 games during his PU career, scoring 45 points on 20 goals and 25 assists from 1999-2003.
"We had some tough seasons but there were great people on the team. I learned a lot about time management; not many people have to deal with the things that we deal with. A lot of guys just go to school and play hockey. The work ethic and good character I got from my Princeton experience has helped me so much."
In sticking in the NHL, Parros has had to use his fists as much as his brain in becoming one the most feared fighters in the league.
"It kind of developed when I was in camps after college; I kind of saw that was the way I could play at the pro level," said Parros, referring to his tough-guy style which resulted in him leading the Ducks with 102 penalty minutes this season.
"I'm a big guy so I'm suited for the hitting and fighting. It's a different way to go but it has kept me where I am."
Parros' rugged play endeared him to the Anaheim fans who started wearing false mustaches to games and waving signs reading "Parros Nation," "Beware of the 'Stache," and "Manly and Tough," among others.
"It's been unbelievable; they have latched on to me," said Parros, referring to his cult following. "Every time I come on to the ice at home, they are anticipating a big hit. It's just a good feeling to have that kind of support."
PU men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky had a very good feeling as he watched Parros present the Cup last Friday. "I think it is unbelievably wonderful for George to put in the effort to come here," said Gadowsky. "He has a very short time with the Cup and it means a lot to me that he feels so much pride in Princeton hockey and Hobey Baker Rink that he would bring the Cup back here."
Gadowsky, an avid supporter of local youth hockey, believes Parros' visit will impact the young players on hand. "It's great for all the kids who came out," added Gadowsky, whose two young sons are involved in local youth hockey. "George is such a great example; he played youth hockey here as a kid and for the kids to come out and see him and the Cup is awesome."
In Gadowsky's view, Parros' accomplishments should also inspire PU players present and future. "It's an important statement for me," asserted Gadowsky. "It says that hockey players can get a degree from Princeton and reach the highest success in their sport."
Parros, for his part, enjoys sharing that success with other former PU players. "We have such a great alumni group here," said Parros, who posed for a group shot with the other former Tigers players on hand. "We get together as often as we can; we are a really tight group. I know guys from the '50s and '60s through today. It's always fun to come back and especially to share this with them."
It was particularly fun for Parros to interact with the youth players on hand last Friday. "I never got exposed to this when I was growing up," said Parros, a native of Washington, Pa. who played youth hockey in New Jersey and starred for the Delbarton School in Morristown.
"I didn't have any NHL guys coming around. Jimmy Dowd (of the New Jersey Devils) was in Brick Township and we all knew who he was. Nobody from this area had a whole lot of success. It's really cool to be able to come back and see the kids get excited about it.
Maybe Parros' visit last Friday will inspire one of those young players at the rink to go on his own Stanley Cup journey.
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