He has the final say on league suspensions and fines for unsportsmanlike, illegal and even reckless play, but his work involves far more.
“We hope we maintain a safe environment for the players,” he said. “We hope we can affect the game in a positive manner and keep it safe.”
Parros, who scored 18 goals in 474 regular-season games and helped the Anaheim Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007, was never suspended as a player. He acknowledged that he was in the league more for his size than his skill. Sometimes, that meant engaging in fights — 169 of them.
Because of a heightened emphasis on speed and finesse, fighting has declined drastically, to 0.26 fights per game from 0.65 fights per game in 2008-9, when Parros participated in 23 regular-season fights with the Ducks. The player safety department was created in 2011.
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“I think the game has been cleaned up quite considerably, but there are still dangers out there,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out what those are and how to deal with them.”
The deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Parros was a very good fit for this role.
“I know that many people think that, because of the role he played during his N.H.L. career, he must not ‘think the game,’” Daly said. “Just the opposite is true.”
Parros spends much of his time talking to team officials and players about ways to make the game safer. Although a player who tests the limits of the rules might not warrant a suspension or a fine, Parros often lets him know the league is watching.
“The game has changed dramatically,” Parros said. “It’s tremendously faster than when I played. Some of the things we deal with now deal with the speed of that game. There are a lot more accidental collisions. There’s a lot more things that happen with less intention than when I played. There’s a lot more headhunting going on, head shots, perhaps more reckless behavior. Guys looking to hurt or injure, in some manner.”
Parros’s department has four advisers: Stephane Quintal, Parros’s predecessor; Damian Echevarrieta, the group vice president, who has an encyclopedic memory of past infractions; Patrick Burke, the senior director; and Ray Whitney, the director. Quintal and Whitney are also former N.H.L. players.
The department’s nerve center is a windowless room down the hall from Parros’s office. Each N.H.L. game is monitored in real time by a staff member on two screens, often one with the home team’s television feed, the other with the visiting team’s feed. National network feeds are also used.
“In today’s game,” Parros said, “you can see everything.”
If an incident merits closer examination, the monitors alert Parros and his advisers by phone, including details like the infraction, the player’s suspension and fine history, the opponent, and, perhaps most important, the player’s next game. Video of the incident is available.
Parros said it is vital to make a decision as quickly as possible so he can tell the team’s general manager if the committee is contemplating a suspension. He describes the process as “case law,” in that most infractions have precedents.
“I might have an inclination of what I want to do,” Parros said, “but I’ll wait to get all the thoughts in and parse through the thoughts and figure out if I want to proceed further.”
A player facing punishment always receives a hearing to tell his side of the story — by telephone, often the day after a game. When a decision is made, a detailed explanation, with video, is posted on the league’s website.
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In the final minutes of the first period of a March 6 game in Boston between the Bruins and the Red Wings, for example, Boston’s David Backes was penalized for a high, hard, late check against Detroit’s Frans Nielsen, who was forced to leave the game.
Parros and his assistants were alerted minutes after the period ended. He solicited advice from the others, and Backes’s hearing was scheduled for noon the next day. Backes received a three-game suspension, without pay, the first of his career.
Parros grew up in Randolph, N.J., but Princeton contacted him only after he played at a summer camp in Montreal, then was told that he should play a year in juniors.
He scored 30 goals in 54 games for the Chicago Freeze of the North American Hockey League, then enrolled at Princeton, where he scored 20 goals in four seasons. Parros spent summers working out with the Los Angeles Kings, who drafted him in the eighth round in 1999.
“By the time I was a junior in college, I realized I’d be putting all my eggs in this basket,” Parros said of playing hockey. “I didn’t want any regrets: ‘Close to being a pro but never made it.’ I didn’t really overly prepare for business interviews, Wall Street, all that stuff.”
Parros played two full seasons for the Kings’ farm team in Manchester, N.H., then a full season for the Kings before they cut him in 2006. He played two games for the Colorado Avalanche before he was traded to the Ducks, where he spent most of six seasons.
Parros then closed his career with the Florida Panthers and the Montreal Canadiens. In October 2013, he sustained a concussion and was hospitalized after he fell face-first to the ice during a fight in his first game with Montreal. He sustained another concussion in a fight two months later. Parros retired in 2014.
But he was not done with hockey. He lived in Las Vegas, attending games in nearby cities for two years. Then Quintal, who in 2014 succeeded Brendan Shanahan as the head of the player safety department, called Parros. He worked under Quintal last season.
“I was scouting for myself, freelance scouting,” Parros said. “You never know who you’re going to see up in the press box. It was just for me to stay current in the game, to stick around. Show my face, make sure I still knew what was going on.”
Parros says he is quite happy with his latest career opportunity.
“This is an interesting job,” he said. “I don’t call it a fun job, because it’s not fun to take guys off the ice and dock their pay and tell G.M.’s and everybody else that they’re being held out. But it is an interesting job. I’m enjoying it.”