An Afternoon With Former Avalanche Enforcer Scott Parker: Part 2

Yesterday we survived Part 1 of our interview with former Avalanche tough guy Scott Parker. Below is the titillating conclusion to our afternoon with The Sheriff. So without further ado, and as Scott Parker himself would say, WATCH THIS!

MHH: I heard a rumor that you have an Avalanche tattoo. Is that true?

SCOTT PARKER: I have this. I have the Stanley Cup.

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MHH: Oh we gotta get a picture of that. It's so badass [laughs out of fear, respect, and awe].

SCOTT PARKER: And I got my whole totem. Take a picture of this, too. So that's the Kelowna Rockets, New Jersey Devils, the Avs, Hershey Bears and the San Jose Sharks. All the teams I played for.

MHH: Even the Devils? Because they drafted you?

SCOTT PARKER: In '96. It was awesome. Scott Gomez, I know from Alaska really well. Then winning all those Cups. Gomez said, "you gotta come up to one of my Cup parties!". I said, "I'm not coming up till I win the fucker". [laughs] I was like click [pantomimes hanging up the phone]

MHH: There's been a couple of guys on the Avs' squad from the Rockets.

SCOTT PARKER: Well, Cummer (Kyle Cumiskey) came from the Rockets. It's funny, Cummer's a beaut. All the stories I did in Kelowna - I did some crazy shit in the little barn we played in before they built the one they're playing in now, it was called the Memorial Arena. And it was small. When we got bag skate in there, I laughed. I was like bahhh, it was like going to the far blue line and back. It was just a tiny arena. The boards didn't move, there were splinters on the boards, I mean, I hit somebody one time and a splinter went through his pads and stuck out! He broke it off. I thought it was stuck in his arm. I was like, oh my God, look at this dude! It was just freaky. In that arena, you couldn't hide. I jumped over the timekeeper at one point and went after the other guy in the penalty box. It was a shit show. Hearing those stories, Cummer was like, uh ha ha [scared laugh]. I was like, "it's okay Cummer. I'm only human".

MHH: He was fun to watch skate.

SCOTT PARKER: He was speedy and graceful. He took one stride and I wanted to hook my stick on him and just go.

MHH: You don't have to answer this question if you don't want to. The suicides and deaths of former enforcers the last few years, could you talk about the misconceptions of these guys? They're supposed to be big, tough guys - nothing can hurt them, right? What can the NHL do or what can the NHLPA do to help these guys?

SCOTT PARKER: Honestly, well, I'll get to that. But I want to tell you a quote. I think it's from Twister (Tony Twist) and (Marty) McSorley - they wrote a book. They had a quote in there, I can't remember which one of the guys said it, but they said, basically think of a hockey team as if you're going to school. So we're all part of a class, we're all going to fourth grade, and we're all learning. And the enforcers, we have to do the same thing, we still have tests. And we still have to do good on the quizzes. And at the end of every day at 3:30 when the buzzer goes off, us as enforcers have to pack up, go out in the parking lot and fight the bully from the other school and all the other kids get to watch. So in a sense, after you kind of put it out that way, it was just like, whoa, that is kinda crazy. In a sense we're held to have to do everything defensively good, and you have to do this good, and you have to do that good, and you have to make good line changes. You can't be a donkey, and you can't be spearing guys and getting out of play. And you still have to throw down. So in a sense, it kind of put it in my head that way, and I was like, okay, that kinda makes sense for the regular people trying to grasp the concept of what it's all about. ‘Cause just like that [snaps fingers] you have to respond. It's not like you prepare: Oh I have a boxing match in three days and you get ready for it. Every game, 82 games, you have to be on point. So it can be stressful at times. I didn't mind what I did and it got my aggression out. But in a sense, I think enforcers are probably the most timid people out there, because we get our aggression out. We don't get it pent up and we don't, you know, eventually snap, like a postal worker might. It kind of makes sense just for kind of regular people trying to grasp the concept of what it's all about. I mean, we get our aggression out every practice, every game. I got in fights in practice up until, I think my third year pro. In practice I would beat guys up. They'd get ornery, they get stupid, they'd crosscheck me in front of the net. I said, "you know what I do to guys in the games when they do that to me? I beat the shit out of them". And if they continue to do it, you know what I do? I drop my mitts and I'd tool them. And they learned. They didn't do it anymore in practice, so you have to teach them. It's evolution. I think it was just my size that I had and probably just getting picked on. I love movies, and I watch all these fight scenes and guys fight for like 15, 20 minutes, I'm like, okay. I punch somebody once and they go down and I'm like "am I super human? Am I Superman? What the shit's going on?" So, that whole thing kind of worked out, and then, you know, I started punching guys once and going down, I was like, well that shit ain't so hard. So I just continued on that path and in a sense, it wasn't always something I looked forward to. I mean, everybody that I knew supported me and they always watched me and they enjoyed what I did. And that's kinda why I did it, too. But you know, the main thing was for my teammates and what they looked up to me for and what that brought to the aura of the game and the mentality of the game ‘cause a lot of it is probably 70% physical and 30% mental. ‘Cause I mean, you can shut another team down like that. You can go up, put your arm on the bench and say "you guys fuck around and I'm gonna take out every single one of you. After this game, I'm gonna go out and I'm gonna pop your friggin' bus tires. When you guys stop on I-70, I'm gonna take my Uzi and I'm gonna shoot you all". You just plant a seed and that's all you have to do is plant a seed. And you never know like, they're thinking, yeah, he's crazy. Yeah, he tried to jump through glass to go after somebody. Okay, yeah, it's probably in his repertoire to do. And it just shuts them down. And you win the game with no conflict or nothing, nobody gets hurt. Then there's nothing wrong with that. It's just mental. But the physical aspect comes in when somebody runs Joe Sakic and then I have to respond. There's that part of it, too. But there is lots of it that you can do that isn't really seen. I almost wish they had shows like they do for inside NFL, inside all this. I know they're starting to do it now, but....

MHH: Like HBO's 24/7?

SCOTT PARKER: Yeah, if they would have done like us back in the day, I mean, they mic'd me once for a Detroit game, and they took it off after the first period. They were like: "yeah, we couldn't use anything you said".

MHH: I was just gonna ask you if you ever were mic'd.

SCOTT PARKER: Yeah it worked once, but I mean, that was, Maltby and Draper. I had all those boys I was contending with and dealing with and it wasn't that I was gonna, you know, I might try to rip off your neck, but you can't really rip off a human's neck. It's not feasible, possible. I tried it. It does not work. I've tried to put my fist through a guy's head, and it does not work. I'm not super human that way, but you can hit somebody once and they go down. But getting back to the whole fighting plan, it wasn't always something that I really aspired to do. But it was a job and it was needed and you got respect for it and it just worked out. But it wasn't something like, oh my God, I'm foaming at the mouth, I want to kill this guy. Most of the time when I got in a fight I had butterflies. And I look at that as good, because almost when you lose those butterflies is when you get complacent and you lose. So if you have that edge still, you're still in that life or death fight. You want to send a message and still be on top, you know, be the man. So, it's always good to have butterflies. Keeps you human.

MHH: What does the NHL do for enforcers or any of the guys when they retire from the NHL. What happens? Do they help you transition you?

SCOTT PARKER: No, you get a slap on the ass. If you look at any other job and they don't really get you ready for the future at another job. I look at the NHL as just a stepping stone in my life and it was a time in my life and I enjoyed what I did and I appreciate everybody that supported me and enjoyed what I did, all the people that talked shit on those blogs can suck a dick. They never been in a fight in their life, but uh, other than that, you know, it was just something I did, and now, we have a barber shop. And I have a great family and great wife. I can't complain.

MHH: What else are you doing with yourself these days? Can you talk about your charity?

SCOTT PARKER: Oh, totally. Basically we started it out to help out families of soldiers here and abroad, just to help their kids go through hockey or any sport they wanted to play while their parents are away fighting for our freedom for us [to be able to] enjoy days like this with nothing flying over our heads or missiles in the air. And just trying to give back. We did that for the first couple of years and then we actually kind of re-tweaked it on what you talked about with the enforcers. We're looking at raising some money just for awareness and for their families as well ‘cause I knew Wade (Belak) really well. Actually, I broke into the league with him here when he was with the Avs. And I knew Jen really well, his wife, and after I heard that last summer, I was just dumbfounded. I hadn't talked to Beeler (Belak) in years and it probably shouldn't be like that. It almost makes you want to reach out and just keep in contact with everybody ‘cause you never know. You don't know if that one call can make a difference or if it could've extended it that much longer. But not knowing the whole ins and outs of the situations, with Boogie (Derek Boogaard) or (Mark Rick) Rypien or Beeler or even Seau (Junior Seau). I mean, all that stuff happens in the NFL now, too. It's more prominent now with all the sensory, you know they put sensors, the g-shock sensors, and they're doing all that stuff. And they're learning that, oh my God, in a football practice, guys are taking 50G shots like every play. And in games it could be upward to 150-200G. It's considerable impact that unfortunately you can't stop your brain from racking against your skull. There's nothing to stop that. No helmet, no nothing is gonna stop that impact and your brain getting bruised by racking against your skull. If anybody can invent something like that, there's the trillion-dollar idea ‘cause you know, it's just the nature of the beast. Everybody's getting faster, everybody's getting bigger, everybody's getting stronger. I think the drive and the winning is still there and will always be there. But I think the speed of the game and the technology, it's just leaps and bounds compared to what it was back in the day when they were strapping on phone books on their shins for shin pads. You know, it's like, okay, we've evolved a little bit.

MHH: For our readers who don't know anything about it, describe your charity.

SCOTT PARKER: It's called Parker's Platoon. We started back in 07 and like I said, it was for military originally, but we still try to help out wherever we can. We have a lot of PTSD soldiers that now come into the barbershop here that we try to help out. We have a ranch, we have them come out and build bird boxes. We have them come out and just take their mind off of anything. If it can help one soldier then I think we're doing something good. And we re-tweaked it a little bit to help out NHL enforcers. We're trying to give back to the families and trying to help out however we can. A little awareness. We're not trying to be like, oh my God, turn the front page and you know, look at me, look at me. You know, a little awareness doesn't hurt, but we don't want the game to change. That's one thing my wife and I talked about a lot, if I had to do it all over again, I'd do everything the same other than probably take a few of the hockey pucks to the head that I took that eventually kind of ended, ended everything.

[Scott's son DJ interrupts] DJ: Did you ask about Bob Hartley?

SCOTT PARKER: Uh, we talked about Bob a little bit. I think I called him a dickhead or something. [EVERYONE LAUGHS]

DJ: Did you ask him about Ron Wilson? Ask him about Ron Wilson [laughs].

MHH: What about Ron Wilson?

SCOTT PARKER: Yeah, Ron's a dick.

MHH: Well now let me see if I have any more questions like that...

SCOTT PARKER: What's kind of cool now is that I can actually speak my mind. Before, I was kind of, you know, obligated by the team, but people want to know the truth and what's kind of crazy is, my buddy Adam Scorgie, he's trying to implement this into the NHL, it's called Ice Guardians. Adam's one of my boys I went to high school with. He's now a movie producer. He got all the old boys, Clark Gillies, and it basically just tells the insides of like our role and what we did - not the generic stuff you hear in the media, like, "I was just playing hard" and "we just wanna win" and "we're just playing for the guy next to us", and "we're playing for the crest on the front, not the name on the back". I mean, there's things that get embedded in your head that you're told to say, but you just want to tell the truth sometimes. And you just can't. You want to keep your job. But, um, where was I going with that?

MHH: Ron Wilson, Bob Hartley, I know everyone wants more playing time, but it seems like a lot of times you were handcuffed, just like you said, two, three minutes: you're the enforcer.

SCOTT PARKER: So the coaches embed in your head: be proactive, not reactive. Don't retaliate. Start it, don't finish it. It's like, how am I supposed to finish it if I never get a fucking shift? Get me out there! What am I supposed to do, clothesline a guy off the bench like the Hanson Brothers? C'mon. I wish I could still do that. Keep guys honest and they wouldn't come skating so close to the bench. Bobby Hull, like he scored two goals and get in two fights in the same game. If somebody would challenge him, he'd have to back it up. It was just the name of the game. It's the nature of the beast. It's the love of the game and there's something about that, that unfortunately like I said, it's kind of getting tweaked a little bit. It's crazy. We do a charity at the Boxwood Gulch. It's a private fishing place up here in Shawnee, and a lot of the old guys come out, the Minnesota Northstars and some of the old guys. And I'm talking to them and I mean, I have a hard time watching the game now sometimes, ‘cause even the rules changed for me. I'm like, what the shit did they just do now? Like, c'mon. Really? But, I ask them, "can you guys watch the game", and they're like "it's so hard now", because it's changed so much from when they played in the 80's, when you're still stick fighting and you're the kind of guy who could gouge a guy's eye out. It's evolved now to where, if you get like a second fight now you get ejected. But the second fight sometimes is warranted. You might not want to deal with it, but it's part of the game and they take it out and it's like, c'mon, that was part of it!

MHH: What do you think of the Shanaban, you know, Brendan Shanahan running the NHL police?

SCOTT PARKER: Oh, Shanny. Ugghh.

MHH: Not so much him, but the crackdown, these suspensions and fines. Do you think it's gonna help things?

SCOTT PARKER: Honestly, see, that's where the enforcement comes into play. You wouldn't have as many of these headshots if you had a guy on the bench that was a brute, that if somebody did something stupid, they had to answer to. Or if you did something to another goal scorer on another team, and your goal scorer comes up to you and says now it's gonna happen to me... You know what I mean? I think it's just having the presence of cause and effect: I do this and I might get my head ripped off, literally. And that's what you need is that presence and that fear factor.

MHH: Keep guys honest.

SCOTT PARKER: Exactly. Guys are throwing elbows. What's crazy is, I don't know if you see it, I see it and it makes me so angry, is you play 82 games regular season, and they call everything. Whistles, whistles, up until two minutes of the game, oh, still whistles, whistles. Come playoffs, whistles go away. Why is there two separate games? Why don't they just play that way the whole time instead of just letting them play like that in the playoffs, because the enforcers don't generally get to play in the playoffs. So if Raffi Torres will go out and just fucking tool someone, and I can't go out and do it ‘cause I'm up in the stands eating nachos - now I can't do anything. And I know I'm not going in the next game ‘cause if I do something and I take a four minute penalty and they score two goals, then I screwed our chances of the playoffs. At that part of the season, it's amazing how it ramps up to this level. I almost wish the season was 40 games long and then you have playoffs. It would be so much more hard-edged. 82 games takes a lot out of you. I mean, we played 11 exhibition games, 82 games, and possibly up to 28 games in playoffs if you go to all seven. So you can possibly play 115 games in a year. And then you have two weeks off and you got to go right back to working out again because you have training camp in basically a month and a half. Summers go by quick and you'd rather have them that way, but it takes a toll on you. So, I don't know. If the NHL changes anything, just limit the games, even if you limit the boys' salaries. Adjust it accordingly, but make it less so it's more aggressive. Like our rivalries. People say, "You must hate the Red Wings". I was like, "I love the Red Wings!". I loved playing them because it was fun and we knew what we were gonna get into. We knew it was gonna be a bloodbath. We knew it was gonna be energetic. We knew that something new was gonna happen that never happened before. Let's get ready for the worst or for something we've never seen before. And like Vancouver and Anaheim, just the rivalry teams that we played against that were just fun. We packed the stands. There's people outside with a Calgary or Canucks jersey having blood all over them. They just knew that there was a buzz. But now, certain teams play and people don't even know what this team is or who's on that team, and they won't go. You just want that thrill and you want that aggression. You want it every game.

MHH: Hey, I still ‘boo' every time Bertuzzi touches the puck. Even when I'm at home watching on TV, I boo.

SCOTT PARKER: Yeah, yeah. He's a good man. He, he is. I mean, he did get dealt some bad cards, and the thing is, [Steve Moore] always thought he was better than everybody else. He went to Harvard, you know what, blow me. College grad. I never went to college, but I can kick your ass. I'll bring you right down to my IQ level if you want. I'll hit you about four times in the skull, that'll bring you right down. So, you know, Todd just, it was one of those games. Markus Naslund, the captain of the Canucks, gets taken out. It was a little sketchy what happened, but, hey. And then Moore, he fought, I think Cooke came after him and then he fought, which wasn't really a fight. Todd wasn't really thrilled with it, they were losing, I think it was 8 to 1 in their home barn.

You don't do that in Canada. You talk about a sport that they love? You talk about Europeans and soccer? That's hockey in Canada. So it's the same way, if you don't respond up there, they will eat you alive.

And Todd, he might have gone overboard, and what's crazy is, even talking to him after the fact and talking to Moe, Morris and other boys that were in that, that happened, I watched that tape about a hundred times, and just the way Todd hit him, and he actually grabbed him to soften his blow when he went down, and what happened was when Moe landed on him, he actually hit the back of his neck and it actually popped up. You know, just the way Todd was holding him.

But you know, it wasn't vicious, it was just, it was the heat of the moment. It was one of those things where you, you want to do something, but you don't know if it's gonna be big, if it's gonna be small, or how it's gonna pan out. But you wanna do something. And Todd, he might not have been right and it might have been a little overboard, but you know, he did something. I mean, at least he responded, at least he tried.

I know he's marked now. People hate him, and it's amazing what that can do to a man, too. It can make you feel this small, you know. And he's not a bad man. He's a great guy and a good family guy, and he just got marked. It's one of those things...

MHH: Life's not fair, that's for sure.

SCOTT PARKER: No, and it's amazing, you can bang all the hot chicks in the world, but you fuck one goat, huh, and you're a goat fucker [LAUGHTER]. So, it's that whole thing where you can do so much good, but you do one bad thing and, and you're marked. But hey, unfortunately, it never goes away.

MHH: How many concussions did you have and what kind of physical problems are you still dealing with from your days as an enforcer?

SCOTT PARKER: Oh, memory loss, equilibrium issues, I couldn't really ride my Harleys for about three years after my last concussion. I almost went over on it, and I put it away.

MHH: You okay now on the bikes?

SCOTT PARKER: Not bad. I'll go rip around from time to time, but I still have good days and bad days. And I can generally tell when they're coming on. But at points, I had seizures. It's amazing what happens when you wake up on the ground and people are looking at you, and you just feel like a dumbass. You feel really weak and it sucks, but that's unfortunately one of the drawbacks, one of the outcomes. That's what happens when you get multiple blows to the head. I think I've had probably over 20 concussions in my lifetime.

MHH: You said earlier your hands have trouble?

SCOTT PARKER: Oh God, yeah, like even now, it's a little brisk out, but my hands---- I feel like wolverine, like I could bash anything with ‘em right now, but they're arthritic as hell. I'm only 34, so I can't imagine when I'm 50. I'm gonna be an angry bastard. [jokingly shakes his fists] GODDAMNED KIDS!!

MHH: Do you think taking guys off the ice and evaluating them in-game, do you think it's gonna help with the concussion problems?

SCOTT PARKER: I think that was actually introduced because of me. That was actually because of what happened to me. I think in a sense it is good, because what got me was the super bright lights, the stimulation, and when you actually receive a blow to the head, your receptors and the way you perceive, can do numbers to you. I talked to numerous guys after games that have had concussions- this was before [navigation] and a lot of that stuff - and they got lost going home. They didn't know how to get home. They had to call their wife to come get them so they could follow them home. It's really scary what can happen. ‘Cause it doesn't really happen almost right away. Because you can evaluate, and a lot of things they ask you is like, what's our license plate number, what's this and what's that.

They ask you all the generic stuff. But from the research they've done, the instant that it happens you might not be aware of the longevity of what's gonna happen, because you're basically losing brain cells, and you're losing memories. Your brain gets racked against your skull and you're getting a slight bruise. It can be the left side, it can be the right side, whatever receptors you have, left side math or right side English, and it's amazing how guys slur [their speech] and just everything else that would happen, but it wouldn't happen immediately. It would take that little when they're down, because you don't want the stimulation, you don't want the bright lights. But I think it's not a bad thing to make sure and evaluate.

With anything: MCL or a leg, I mean, they're not just gonna do it on the bench. Sometimes they take you back and the doctor will come down and make sure tendons and everything are good. And it's the same thing with a head. If it takes that little bit for the person to gain, or regain, their composure rather than being thrown right back out there and possibly getting really hurt or hurting somebody else in the process. It's almost like, on the road you don't want somebody drunk driving. You don't want somebody on the ice that's out of it. I mean, even my last game, I got elbowed in the corner by Daley off of the uh, uh, the--

MHH: Trevor Daley?

SCOTT PARKER: Yeah, it was Daley off of Dallas. It was an exhibition game. I went into the corner and he was a leftie, so he was like this (turned away from Parker) and he spun like this (into Parker, elbow up) to go rip the puck, and at that point I was coming in like this (low) to go poke it away. And his elbow catches me right in the chin.

Honestly, the only reason I know is from watching the video and from what my wife tells me. And basically I just stopped right there. I just kind of stood there, looked around a little bit, started skating towards the goalie a little bit. I was looking around. I was just fucking out of my feet. Just fucking out of it. And the only thing that brought me to was the ref whistle. I heard that and it was like the Rocky fights you see where they go, ding, ding, ding, and he's in the mix right away - it was like that. It was like I had gotten thrown right into a tunnel and into a mix of 11 guys that I thought, oh my God, it was life or death.

And I just went fucking crazy, and basically started fighting the whole Dallas team behind the net. And the only thing I remember is looking over and seeing my two teammates looking at me with their eyes like this [wide open]. And I was just swinging, swinging away. And that's all. That was it. I was done after that.

MHH: I remember the Avs tried to send you down to Lake Erie after that.

SCOTT PARKER: Yeah.

MHH: But you didn't report because you were just done, because of the concussion?

SCOTT PARKER: I was basically done. I didn't really talk to my agent at the time - that's another rule that came into play after me too. Rules, rules. Basically you have 72 hours, when you go on the IR, your agent has to be notified. So when you go on the Injured Reserve, they can possibly call somebody up. If you're injured, your agent has to be notified. But when you actually come off the IR now, your agent has to be notified. You have 72 hours to get re-evaluated by a second, outside doctor, instead of somebody by the team ‘cause, unfortunately with the teams, I mean, they want to win. They want to keep you there, they want....

MHH: It's a business.

SCOTT PARKER: It's a business. They want you to play, so, you know: "can he go?" "Yeah, he can go." "Okay.". So, if you get a second opinion from an outside source that could possibly be a little more unbiased, then they actually have that option within 72 hours, and then you can possibly go back on the IR if the results come back that you're not healthy enough to go play.

MHH: Is that what you did?

SCOTT PARKER: Well it was 75 hours. The 72 hours was in the play, but now the agent has to be notified so they have that option to go to a second source: "oh no, I talked to you yesterday and you were talking gibberish so you ain't going nowhere, you're gonna see this guy, and we're gonna figure out what's going on". Rather than being stuck out in the loop and possibly going back up or getting back on the roster and getting sent down. I didn't mind going to Lake Erie.

But you can ask my wife, that's back in the time when I was having my seizures and all that stuff happened after that game against Dallas in exhibition. I was not myself. If I would have taken another bad blow it could have killed me. That's what my neurologist said. I have a bruised brain stem. And basically that's what killed Dale Earnhardt. He hit the wall so hard that it severed his brain stem. And basically with a bruised brain stem, it never re-heals. Once it bruises, you never regain. So whatever is on the memory of that brain stem, you lose. Which for me is part of my memory and my speech - sometimes I'll slur.

MHH: So did that make it easier to hang 'em up? Because you knew physically you had to?

SCOTT PARKER: Definitely. Physically, I just wasn't there. Mentally? Not even close. I could have punched things, but taking a blow or just mentally trying to get there [to the rink], trying to drive a vehicle, trying to do anything motorized, it was like I said, the Harleys, my equilibrium, just falling over, having seizures and just not being myself. It's scary ‘cause you're so used to one thing and having so much control, but then when you find yourself not having that control anymore.....it makes you wary.

~ END INTERVIEW

A big THANK YOU to Scott Parker, Francesca, DJ, Z, and the entire Lucky 27 Social Club for their hospitality, authenticity, and overall extreme level of awesome. KILL 'EM ALL!!

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