I think I’m starting to enumerate the reasons I should not renew my subscription to The Hockey News – aside from reporting that redefines “timeliness” the same way my health care provider does, they seem to carry grudges from year to year. Latest example comes from the December 19th issue, page 19, in the Player Poll section examining whether the league should crack down on head contact. The grab picture above the text: personal favorite George Parros finishing a solid check against a Blue Jacket. It’s a horrible choice of picture for as many reasons as there are points of view in the head shot debate: At 6′ 5″, Parros is simply bigger than a lot of guys he’s going to check, so naturally he comes up higher with his arms. THN has routinely called Parros out in any discussion of fighting and enforcers. Do they just enjoy picking on Parros in the face of so many other examples that might emphasize their shots at head shots more clearly – say, Chris Simon or Todd Bertuzzi?
Personal opinion: if the NHL wants to cut down on head contact, they need to reach down to the junior, high school, midget and bantam levels, working with USA Hockey and the IIHF, to clearly establish “rules of play” that clearly draw lines between a sloppy check (or a size mismatch) and a potential injury-causing play. They did it for obstruction, which has more shades of gray than the Wall Street Journal’s photo reproductions, so head contact shouldn’t be such a tough call for officials or the press. The number of high hits I’m seeing in youth hockey this year is staggering — and they remain uncalled, while obstruction penalties are at least following the spirit of USA Hockey’s guidelines for improved play flow.
But back to Parros for a minute. Reading materials less known for their NHL astuteness have done a great job covering his career, including this piece in USA Today. When “the nation’s newspaper” gets a better bead on your poster child than you do, get worried. What’s even more telling is how USA Hockey, the bathroom reader that arrives monthly to anyone registered as a youth player in the US, portrayed Parros last summer: as intelligent, focused on youth sportsmanship, and generous with his time and funds. Parros and his trademark mustache graced the cover doing something good. What a concept. When the media holds up role models – and tells kids what we expect of them, what makes them heros in the statistical categories that don’t result in hardware but hard-earned appreciation, then it’s encouraging the right debates.