There always is plenty of enthusiasm, eagerness and emotion on opening night in the NHL. But the thrill was gone after a scary incident sent Montreal Canadiens fourth-liner George Parros to the hospital.
Parros suffered a concussion in a fight with Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Colton Orr early in the third period on Tuesday. The Habs forward wasn't hit with a punch in the second scrap between the two. Parros awkwardly toppled over his fallen opponent when he went to throw a punch and his momentum sent him chin-first to the ice.
The mustachioed Parros was knocked unconscious. When he came to, he later tried to get up with the help of three teammates, but wobbled and fell back down. He eventually was carted off the ice on a stretcher, later deemed alert and conscious, but he was transported to hospital for observation.
You didn't have to be in the Bell Centre to notice that the usual magnificent atmosphere had been sucked out of the building in Montreal's 4-3 defeat.
VIDEO: George Parros injured
VIDEO: Don Cherry on Parros
Inside The Game: Parros/Orr analysis
It was incident reminiscent of a Jan. 20, 2011 fight between the same combatants, only then Parros was with the Anaheim Ducks, when he played for current Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle.
In that tussle, Parros got the better of Orr and knocked down the Maple Leafs forward and then Parros fell on top of Orr, knocking his face into the ice. Orr suffered a concussion and missed the rest of the year.
This latest episode will no doubt reignite the debate on whether the NHL should ban fighting from those inside and outside the hockey world. It's too easy to predict.
The concussion epidemic is not just in hockey, but sports period. Like a bodycheck, fighting in hockey sometimes causes concussions and this warrants discussion and debate from all corners.
The NHL and NHLPA established a concussion working group a few years ago to learn about the effects of concussions and to help manage head injuries.
But maybe it's time this group or an NHL/NHLPA sub-committee investigates the effects of fighting, especially in light of the death of a career enforcer like Bob Probert and other deceased veteran hockey players in which there was evidence of the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
I see both sides of the argument. Fighting has been part of the game for a long time. But the tide has turned in public opinion (a big part has been media driven) toward this part of the game. That's why hockey people need to get involved in the debate, too.
Ironically, the league implemented a rule this year in which any player who takes off his helmet prior to a fight gets hit with a two-minute minor penalty in the hopes this, too, would help curb head injuries.
Earlier in the game both Toronto's Mark Fraser and Montreal's Travis Moen discarded their helmets before a fight (Fraser offered because he now wears a visor after his scary incident in which he took a shot off his forehead in the playoffs last spring).
The new rule was a step in the right direction. It simply could not help Parros because of the freak nature of his incident.
The Maple Leafs must share some of the blame in an indirect way on Tuesday. The enforcer seemed to be on its way to extinction when skilled teams like Detroit, Pittsburgh and Chicago won Stanley Cups in 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10. Even the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings relied more on skill and toughness than fisticuffs to win championships in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively.
Under Carlyle, however, the Maple Leafs beefed up their fighters last season with the return of Orr to fulltime NHL duty, and the addition of Fraser and Frazer McLaren.
They bullied, fought and intimidated their way to the organization's first playoff appearance since 2004. They forced other teams in their division, like the Ottawa Senators to pick up enforcer Matt Kassian last season and other teams like Montreal to sign Parros in the summer.
But don't expect the Maple Leafs to change their ways. Why would they? Just look at the success they have enjoyed by beefing up. That is part of the debate on this matter.
Other opening-night reflections
Winnipeg Jets rookie defenceman Jacob Trouba, 19, enjoyed quite a debut. Late in the second period, he helped set up a key goal from teammate Michael Frolik, his first of two goals in the Jets 5-4 win in Edmonton against the Oilers. Trouba then scored the tying goal early in the third period. He played 25 minutes, two seconds ... The Oilers season at least began with some good vibrations when 24-year-old fourth-line rookie Luke Gazdic scored on his first shift in the NHL after four seasons and 262 games in the minors. His mother was at Rexall Place to witness the joyous moment, but his father Mike, a former Buffalo Sabres draft pick who played junior for the Sudbury Wolves, could not make it because of a business trip. Gazdic was claimed off waivers by the Oilers from the Dallas Stars because Edmonton's Steve McIntyre hurt his knee when he missed a check on Gazdic in an exhibition game ... Oilers assistant coach Keith Action also was a proud Papa on opening night. In his son Will Acton's first NHL game, at age 26, he won a face-off and eared an assist on Gazdic's goal ... So much for concerns that Alex Ovechkin may be exhausted after he jetted to Greece and back on the weekend to carry the Olympic torch. In the Washington Capitals 6-4 loss to the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks, Ovechkin scored a goal and an assist, and fired nine shots on goal ... Mikhail Grabovski made quite a debut for the Capitals. He checked in with a three-goal, four-point game ... Twenty-six goals were scored in three games on opening night for an average of 8.67 goals per game, which is quite an increase from the 5.31 goals per game average last season. Did the streamlined goalie pads make that much of a difference?
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