George Parros knows why fans around the NHL are aware of him. Beyond being an enforcer for the Anaheim Ducks, he has perhaps the best-known facial hair the league, and his Twitter handle even confirms that Parros is a man with a monumental mustache.
"I have a good time with it," he said. "It's something that's more lighthearted, I think. People get behind it, and it's obviously become quite the marketing tool. It's entertaining. The fans enjoy it, so it's all fun."
Parros' mustache is in the spotlight this month for "Movember," though he'll be just about clean-shaven Tuesday night when taking on the Caps because he had it all taken off Monday at the Art of Shaving on Connecticut Avenue to start growing it back.
But whiskers or without, Parros' value to the Ducks on the ice as a fighter and off as a locker room leader goes well beyond his iconic mustache.
"He's a guy that a lot of guys look up to. He's been around the game for a long time and he's adapted that role," league MVP Corey Perry said. "He likes going out and sticking up for teammates for whatever."
That's just the job for Parros. He has been involved in 132 regular- or postseason fights during his time in the NHL, first with the Colorado Avalanche and briefly with the Los Angeles Kings but mostly with Anaheim.
And while he is a popular player for what he does off the ice, he provides a steadying, veteran presence for a Ducks team that got much younger in recent years since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007.
"I'm not a guy that's going to score 25 or 30 goals, so I have to help in other ways,' Parros said. "Whether that's team chemistry in the locker room or just play on the ice in a more minor role, that's what I'm here to do. Every team needs guys like that, and I've found my niche here in Anaheim."
When asked about Parros, every Ducks player said the same thing — he's smart. And this isn't just hockey smart, either. Parros played four years at a little school called Princeton and graduated with an economics degree.
"He's probably the smartest guy in the locker room," future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne said.
Not that it would take a Princeton education to know it takes something to stick as an enforcer in the NHL for this long.
"If you're a fighter and you become a liability on the ice or off the ice, there's not going to be too many jobs available for you," Parros said.
Maybe the 31-year-old's smarts have rubbed off on teammates, because some, like goaltender Jonas Hiller, know they can go to Parros for advice on anything — and not just how to grow a worthwhile mustache.
"He's a great guy in the dressing room," Hiller said. "He's such a nice guy off the ice, you can talk to him."
Selanne said during his 20 seasons in the NHL that all the tough guys he has played with have been "great guys," a sign that the enforcer role brings with it certain team qualities.
But being nice isn't what keeps the paychecks coming in.
"At the same, he can be the tough guy on the ice, and he does what other people are scared of doing or don't want to do," Hiller said. "He's there for the team, and he does everything for the team. That's the kind of player a team needs, and he's 100 percent a team player."
It doesn't hurt that Parros also owns a Stanley Cup ring from that 2007 run. Gone are guys like captain Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Andy McDonald, Todd Marchant and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, but Parros is still with the Ducks.
And his words carry weight.
"Anytime you have guys that have won, they obviously know what it takes to go through the battle," defenseman Sheldon Brookbank said. "He's been through that. He knows what it's all about."
But, Brookbank said, Parros doesn't like to puff out his chest and talk about his accomplishment — being an enforcer who has made a career out of fighting and contributing to the locker room climate while piling up 16 goals and 14 assists in 377 career games.
Of course Selanne — who has 640 NHL goals — is sure that Parros could score more if his focus was on that, given the tough guy's success in summer games.
"I hope so," Parros said. "I'd need probably more ice time than a few minutes a night, but I've done it before at other levels, so I think I could."
The Ducks haven't needed that out of Parros, and they won't. They just need him to continue being the same guy amid a talented roster with offensive-minded young stars like Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.
"He's undercover kind of one of the faces of our franchise that when you think of the Ducks, you think of some of the big stars," Brookbank said. "But you think of Parros right in there, too."
Fortunately for Parros, it's a very recognizable face. And fortunately for the Ducks, he's much more than just a mustache.
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