photo courtesy Getty Images
In the dark days of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, players considered various options to fill their time without any NHL to play for; many hopped planes and skated for European teams, others chose to take time off and recuperate from seasons and injuries past, a few fatherly players focused on family time, but only one player assumed the unconventional role of tow truck driver: former Avalanche enforcer Scott Parker.
In response to Mrs. Parker's pleading to help get "Parks" (as she calls him) out of the house, a friend agreed to have Scott Parker ride along on a tow truck shift with him. Parker enjoyed himself so much that he decided to fill his days while waiting for the NHL and it's players to play nice again, behind the wheel of a tow truck.
Can you imagine what the Avalanche organization might do if they found out one of their players was standing on the side of the freeway hooking up a broken down Buick for a tow back to Reggie's auto salvage as cars and 18-wheelers sped past at 70MPH? Parker's agent could. He begged his client to give up helping stranded motorists and to stay off the roads, but Scott Parker skates at his own pace. When the lockout ended and the Avalanche invited players down to the Pepsi Center to sign contracts and get back to work, Parker's agent called Scott to give him the good news. But he couldn't find Scott Parker anywhere. Imagining the worst, Scott's agent and his wife both dialed him all day, but to no avail. Panic set in: Where is tow truck driving Scott Parker?! When he finally came home late from his tow shift, his wife asked him where he had been. Scott replied that he was on his shift when he received the good news and rather than drive home, shower, and change into more professional attire, Scott simply drove his massive tow truck down to Pepsi center (clothed in grease-stained coveralls I imagine), and strolled in to sign his new contract.
These are the kinds of stories you hear while seated in a chair at Parker's Lucky 27 Social Club in downtown Castle Rock, Colorado.
Since retiring from professional hockey in 2009, Parker has hung up his laces (and tow truck keys) in exchange for barber scissors. No, Scott Parker does not cut hair. But he and his wife, an excellent and charismatic barber, opened the Lucky 27 Social Club in 2012 as a place where men could be men - while being pampered like women. The pricing and service sign inside the shop warns: "Leave your ol' lady at home!". Children are not allowed either, although when I was there, a gentleman and his son walked-in (having no clue what they were in for) and an amiable Mrs. Parker was more than happy to chop the young man's mane, so it would seem the Parkers make and break their rules as they like - continuing the way Parker played the game of hockey, now to the barbering world. Besides, are you really going to argue details with Scott Parker?
The Parker's social club & barber shop is a converted classic old home on Wilcox Street in the heart of scenic downtown Castle Rock. Belying the bucolic setting, the shop is man cave of machismo once you walk through the door. Avalanche and hockey paraphernalia cover the walls, as do motorcycle and miscellaneous athletic treasures. The decor is pure testosterone. Scott said he created the barbershop as an oasis for men, especially Denver's pro athletes, to come and kick back and just be themselves without the pressure or stress of work, media, family or girls. Jerseys of Avalanche players adorn the wall in a back room where a gorgeous poker table resides. Former and current Avs visit this table often (if felt could talk!). In the exclusive back room of the social club, you may find your favorite Avalanche players enjoying cigars and pedicures (before you question the manliness of a pedicure, consider three things: 1. Hockey players feet endure singularly gnarly abuse. 2. If Scott Parker does it, it's manly. 3. Parker's mantra is "Kill 'em all!". Don't question that logic. You will lose.).
The patrons of the Lucky 27 Social Club are an eclectic mishmash of are war veterans with their PTSD dogs, former and current pro athletes, mysterious Italian mafioso looking fellas in the "export" business, local dudes and dads - not to mention the owners and employees: the bail bondsmen/barber named "Z" (seriously, he was on the phone with his other "clients" while cutting my hair - but don't let that suggest he didn't give me a great trim. I was in that chair for and hour and a half and got the most tailored and professional haircut of my life. Thanks Z!), Parker's son who played college volleyball at Arizona and has less blank than inked skin, Parker's wife - a former bodyguard (amongst her copious other adventures), and then The Sheriff himself, the one-of-a-kind Scott Parker.
A few weeks ago, Parks was gracious enough to allow my brother-in-law and I to tour the Lucky 27 Social Club, enjoy straight razor shaves, a mohawk, and then sit down for an interview. Today is part 1 of our lengthy and potent exchange. Tomorrow, the finale. (note: Scott has a former convict wielding a chainsaw in the background throughout our interview. I would have asked why, but it kind of just seemed natural given the setting).
MHH: Tell me about what you're doing now in retirement: the Lucky 27 Social Club.
SCOTT PARKER: I think it's kind of hard for sports guys, after they're done playing, that's what they're known for, their sport, whether it's hockey, football, baseball, or soccer, that's what you're known for. And when you're done, nobody transitions you or gets you prepared for the real world in a sense. My wife and I have owned three businesses and it's a cut throat world. It's a lot different than playing sports [laughs]. We just did it, a lot of it, for the social club aspect. Somewhere for the teammates to come during the season, spring training, mini camps, and just be a place for the boys to come down and have a release or a breather - to know that you're not going to get talked about, that whatever you say isn't going to be misconstrued and talked about throughout town - just a place where you can vent and tell funny stories. It's almost a locker room atmosphere. It's a gentleman's hang out, a club. And also trying to bring back the barber shop: straight razor shaves, the care and craftsmanship that went into the old school barbering.
MHH: Do you do any of the barbering?
SCOTT PARKER: No. Our son is in training right now. My arthritic meat claws of hands with a straight razor in them wouldn't be the prettiest sight. I'll stick to being the pretty face on the cover and let everybody else do what they do best. My wife's been doing this for over 30 years. Her Grandmother had a shop in a New York basement for years, so it's been in her bloodline for years. It's just worked out. The main thing is having the social club aspect and having a place the teammates and guys in the community can hang out. I don't know if you can write this [note: I can], but in the locker room you say, "what up dickhead?". We have fun. You say that to a normal person, "Hey what's up asshole". Obviously, they judge you. It's like a pecking order type - where if you're picking on someone, you care about them. But if you don't pick on them, you just don't give a shit. So in a sense, it's a brotherhood, a pyramid where you're part of it. You're always playing jokes. On the road, we did this thing called "leaners". You fill up a trash can 3/4 of the way full, tilt it against someone's door, knock on the door and run away. They open the door and BOOM! We're in 5-star hotels and we're doing this stuff. You're always a kid and you're going to play around and I think it's something you'll never lose.
TODD (my bro-in-law): So we can call you dickhead and not get punched in the face?
SCOTT PARKER: [laughs] There's certain places you can utilize it. Like with the rookies. I would give them such shit. You're almost like a big brother, passing on the knowledge. To see them thrive and to grow as players is just awesome to see.
MHH: Did someone do that to, or for, you?
SCOTT PARKER: In my role I didn't have a whole lot of guys to look up to that were my size, but I had [Jeff] Odgers, Warren Rychel. I had the boys that were there that were cagey enough, who knew their role, who knew when to fight, when not to. And they honed me in that way and showed me a few of their tricks - not all of their tricks, but I brought a lot to the table just with my size and everything. So I kind of fought my own fight. The main thing was timing. Timing means everything. If a team is getting the best of you and they have momentum, you have to shift that momentum. If you go out there and bash somebody's head in, and get some blood on the ice, and you happen to do it that way, then hey, it worked. Whenever I fought I was sending a message. It wasn't WWE. People asked, "is it for real what you did". And I'd say, "Do you wanna see?". I punch 14 inches through an object. I knocked out multiple sets of teeth. I ended careers. Just like my career ended too, nothing lasts forever. You never know your last day you're going to lace 'em up so you gotta live it like it's the last.
MHH: What do you miss most about the game?
SCOTT PARKER: The guys. The camaraderie. The stories. The brotherhood. That's kind of why we did this [the social club]. People come in and they tell stories. People laugh.
MHH: It's like an oasis.
SCOTT PARKER: Yeah, exactly. It's almost like a shrink-slash-everything else too, where you go in and tell your problems. We're not like a bartender. It's funny stuff. Funny shit happens here. It's amazing when we get the athletes down here too because they're the funniest.
MHH: One thing I always admired about how you fought, was you fought with respect. There was an honor in it. You didn't throw a punch after it was over, no cheapshots. Can you talk about that honor among warriors?
SCOTT PARKER: It's a respect factor. That came into play early in my career, just from fighting and idealizing some of the older guys. Like fighting Rudy Poeschek and Tony Twist. Tony Twist was my first NHL fight, so it was like, "Holy shit. Welcome to the league kid". He was a massive man. He had this tattoo. I remember he took his stuff off in the penalty box and I was like, "I want to be that guy when I grow up". And Twister, he's just a great man. I've talked to him numerous times. And it's amazing, that respect factor just has to be there. There were guys who didn't have that respect factor, and whenever you had the chance to unleash the fury on them, you did. 98% of the guys are awesome, but there's knuckleheads out there that have no common sense. But for the most part when a guy goes down - the thought process behind that is I don't want a guy hitting me, you're already down. It's already over. It's done. That's how the game should be. The guys that try to sucker punch or get one more in.... I don't know if the confidence factor isn't there, but there's always another day, and another game, and you can always get that guy again. I'd rather fight a guy who's 100%, not 80%. I don't want any excuses. I either won or I lost. I gave it my best and that's what happened. Any given night, anybody can lose. That's the name of the game.
MHH: You were a 30-goal scorer in juniors. Was there a point that you made the choice to switch and become an enforcer?
SCOTT PARKER: It wasn't my choice. I honed my skills in juniors. My last year I had 30 goals, 22 assists, 250 PIMs. It was MY league. But the thing is in that league [WHL], you're a teenager playing against teenagers. But when you get in the NHL - I broke in at 20 - fighting Tony Twist. He was 33. Probie [Bob Probert] was 38. The age gap is so much different and they know so much more. It's amazing how much you learn quick. Probie knocked me squirrely the first time we fought. He grabbed me and I went to go re-grab and I messed up. He caught me 3 times. Hit me in my temple. Knocked me down. I don't know what happened. I snapped. I got back up. I was out of my mind. I wasn't there. Probie understood that cuz I talked to him after the fact. I was like, "Probie, I'll let you take me out right here, right now. I'm so sorry I did that. I don't mean to disrespect you that way. He said, "Kid, I've been knocked squirrely like that so many times - I know what it's about. It's all good. Good job". I'm like, "Oh my God! It wasn't a bad thing". He knew because he'd walked in my shoes all those years. It's stuff like that being passed on. And you can tell when somebody is trying to get an extra shot. Now if it's warranted, like if somebody goes after your skill player and takes their knee out and their MCL is toast and the stretcher comes out - it might be time to send a message. You might have to leave blood on the ice. At times, I would take two fingers and jam them down people's throats. I would do anything I had to to send a message: You don't fuck with my team. That's what I had to bring. But back to the goal scoring thing, it was hard when I broke into the NHL because I was on a team with Joe Sakic, Drury, Tanguay, Forsberg - there wasn't really room for another goal scorer. Unfortunately I had Bob Hartley who I don't know if he knew how to utilize enforcers very well. I think he thought he did in his mind, but I don't know if in essence he really did. And he just kind of gave me the goon job. And that wasn't really what I was looking for, but it was what I knew I had to do to stay here (the NHL), and my teammates respected me for it. I gave them more room. I was part of the team. I wasn't going to bark. I wasn't gonna bitch. I was a rookie. You do what you're supposed to do and that's that. So unfortunately I got branded early because I was on such a good team and there was no need for another goal scorer. So I got 2 to 5 minutes a game and went out there and just tried to make as much room as I could.
MHH: That's interesting because there's a goalie coaches, defense coaches, but---
SCOTT PARKER: No enforcer coach. The coaches think they know, but even guys who fought back in the day, the game has changed. It's evolved. Guys aren't 5'10". They're 6'8" and 270 pounds. You're fighting a heavyweight. There's almost classes now where you have a featherweight, a lightweight, a middleweight, a heavyweight. Like, I wouldn't fight Matt Cooke from Vancouver. I wouldn't grab Sydney Crosby and tool him. That's not my job. If Eric Godard from Pittsburgh went and took out Forsberg and blew his knew out. I would eyeball on Sid and do the same thing to him, but I would not drop the mitts and beat him up. That's not what you do. There's a code of ethics, but there is also an eye for eye scenario too. In a sense, I'd like to see more of that come back into the NHL because it keeps guys aware and on their toes. You need that respect factor. You need that aura of "oh shit, if I do something, there's a consequence".
MHH: Let the players police the game?
SCOTT PARKER: Exactly. Even with bringing in the two ref system, it just gets more convoluted. It's like with basketball, are you going to make the hoop bigger? Are you going to raise it? Why do they continue to fuck with our game? Just leave it alone, it's not broken. They constantly add new stuff: obstruction this, obstruction that. I ask normal people, "do you like hockey". And they say, "it's so hard to follow cuz it's constantly changing." They went with the follow-a--puck from Fox. I don't know why they had to shake it up. Just let it be. Evolution doesn't mean you have to tweak it and change it. This is the last bare knuckle brawling sport there is. There is still consequence. If you dish it out, you better be ready to take it.
MHH: Talking about evolution, do you think the role of the enforcer has changed?
SCOTT PARKER: It think it has. I don't know if it's because of the concussions or overall play. I mean, enforcers, we're not the fastest or prettiest skaters, and I think coaches might think we inhibit or we're bad defensively, "oh you got scored on". Well, everybody gets scored on. It's part of the game and we're all part of the team. Let it be. Let us just play. It's more political when you get to the "bigs", but if you want to be there you have to stick it out and make the best.
MHH: After you left they brought in David Koci, Stewie who could do everything, but he's gone. Now the tough guy is Cody McLeod. They brought in Downie who's a gritty guy, but it's not the same--
SCOTT PARKER: There's no one true guy that you're looking to if shit breaks bad. That's what I tell the boys, if anything goes awry, I saw, "watch this". I got you. I have that [watch this] tattooed on my chest. It was what I knew I had to do. When Jack Johnson hit Smitty [Ryan Smyth] into the turnbuckle, I looked right at Coach Q like, "Can I go, can I go?!". And he's like, "go where?". And I said, "go after that motherfucker". And he said, "no, no, no". I should have just went, but you obviously don't do that or I would have been done right there. But still, Smitty's my boy and that's my job. I felt like I let him down. I should have done something. I wouldn't have went crazy enough where something went really awry, but I would send a message bad enough to where it probably would have changed the face of the whole NHL. I was just at that point where I was hand-cuffed enough. I was a rabid dog. One of my boys was down on the ice, unwarranted. It didn't sit well with me.
MHH: That was a nasty hit. I'm surprised Smyth bounced back that season. Airborne, neck gets caught---
SCOTT PARKER: Oh ya, and I was right there. It was like a slap in the face. You did that to one of my players, well "watch this". And to be hand-cuffed, it's like, ugh.... what do you do?
MHH: You can't win. If you go out there, you get in trouble, but if you sit there, you're not doing your job.
SCOTT PARKER: Exactly. 6 in one hand, half a dozen in the other. That's just one of the hard parts of the job. Knowing when and when not to. Knowing when it's warranted. And that just comes with time. But I definitely enjoyed what I did and I can't complain. I got a Stanley Cup. I got to play with awesome players. I got awesome stories. Hell yeah.
MHH: Where's your Stanley Cup ring?
SCOTT PARKER: My safe at the house.
MHH: Tell me about your day with the Cup.
SCOTT PARKER: It was awesome. I decided to take it back to Spokane. My buddy's parents had 40 acres out in the country and that's where the whole redneck thing came in with making the holder for the Cup (Note: Parker had his "redneck" friends build a rig to strap the Cup onto the back of his motorcycle, see photo below). The Cup guy was like, "I don't know if this is going to happen". My boys were like, "This is gonna happen. This is badass. This is pure grade awesome!". They painted it. It worked out really good and the cup guy was awesome about it. So for the first time the Cup got to go for a ride on a Harley. For me to be able to do something original like that was just awesome. I rode it 4 miles to a bar - and we were in a town of about 2,500 people, but there was maybe 15,000 people at this bar. It was unheard of. It blew up. It was a mad house. We had a caravan of 30 bikes, 20 cars. We went 4 miles to the bar and all those people were there. We had a heyday. It was awesome to bring it to a little hick town that you would never imagine looking over and "Oh my God, is that the Stanley Cup?!". It was amazing. But even 35lbs gets heavy after awhile. But there's nothing like the true Cup and getting my name on it. It's honorable. To be a part of that is huge.
MHH: Are you kidding? It's awesome. No matter what else happens in life, you're a Stanley Cup champion!
SCOTT PARKER: I heard a soccer trophy fell off a bus in Europe this summer and got run over. Whoops. That doesn't happen to the Stanley Cup.
MHH: Other than winning the Stanley Cup, what's your favorite NHL moment?
SCOTT PARKER: Probably when Saks (Joe Sakic) handed the Cup to Borky (Ray Bourque).
MHH: Did you know that was going to happen?
SCOTT PARKER: Not a clue. Saks is just such a class of his own. He's a great man. Instead of him hoisting it, he took it from Bettman and handed it right to Borky, and Borky lifted it for the first time. Even talking about it now: goosebumps. That day was just electric in the air. It was meant to be. That picture of him is frozen in time.
MHH: Hejduk is the only remaining player from that team. What do you think about Hejduk coming back for another year and serving again as captain?
SCOTT PARKER: Hedjie is unbelievable. His hands just seem to get better from year to year. It's always good to have a guy like that on the team: cagey veteran who knows how to do everything, politically, on the ice, off the ice. He may not be the biggest talker, but the way he passes on knowledge is much needed. They definitely need him for another year to point the boys in the right direction. Staz (Paul Stastny) is working up in the ranks, they definitely have guys that are going to be great in the future, but for now you still need Hedjie and some of the cagier guys in there to keep the boys corralled and on the right path. It's huge to have the cagey vet.
MHH: The boys were close this season, but what do the Avs need to get them back into the playoffs?
SCOTT PARKER: Just consistency, really. I mean, the injuries come into play. I know they had lots of call-ups last year. Even watching some of the games, I was like, who was that? [LAUGHS] But, you know, that's hard, just keeping guys healthy and then being consistent, because if you're constantly changing lines, guys aren't used to playing with each other. And you go to drop the puck, and your linemate you think is there isn't there because he's injured. You're like, what the hell? So it's really hard to stay consistent with injuries, but the main thing is just keeping everybody healthy, keeping Dutchie healthy, keeping the young guys going in the right path and just building wherever they can. You know, goal tending, who came in? Was it Jiggy?
SCOTT PARKER: Jiggy came in and kind of oversaw Varly. He didn't want to be number one, and just didn't mind passing on knowledge. And you know, he's won a cup, and he's cagey, and he'd been around forever. But he didn't want to be number one. Varly played awesome and then, you know, when Jiggy came in, he played really well. So, you just need guys that are really good at what they do and you need backup guys that are really good at what they do. And then they don't hold a grudge. And that's where you get the good teamwork, and that's how you build championships.
MHH: So with that '01 cup team, did you feel like there was a different vibe with that team? Everyone knowing their role?
SCOTT PARKER: Everybody knew their role. Nobody stepped on anybody's toes. We had backup behind backup behind, I mean, guys knew what they had to do and they didn't mind stepping off to the side and saying, you do it, and if you can't, I'll come in and do it, and if I can't, buddy'll come in and do it. And it was just amazing how everybody just jelled and got each other's backs and if somebody faltered here, it just, you know, it just didn't matter because they had super backup and we just knew what everybody's capabilities were.
MHH: Have you ever been on a team like that since, or before?
SCOTT PARKER: Not really. That was definitely an all-star team. That was just unbelievable. Especially getting the trade. We got (Steve) Reinprecht and (Rob) Blake later in the year, unfortunately we lost Millsy (Aaron Miller) and Deader (Adam Deadmarsh)--
MHH: And then lost Forsberg with the spleen...
SCOTT PARKER: Yeah, Foppa in the last round. I was actually at the Chophouse that night. He was like Casper the Ghost. I was like, "oh my God". I'm thinking he was dehydrated, playing as much as he did and putting your body through all that, I mean, it's gotta take a toll. But not thinking it was something as serious as [his spleen]. That was definitely freaky. Luckily he went and got checked out - but you see? That's the thing, it's like, he got hurt so other guys stepped up, you know what I mean? Drury stepped up, Tangs stepped up. Tang's got two goals in the last game (game 7 against New Jersey). It was just huge. Guys stepped up where they needed to and that's what I said, we just knew if somebody needed to be thrown on shoulders, we threw them on shoulders. Nobody left behind. We just did what we had to do. It was just meant to be. We definitely went to some game sevens and it was a little a little scary at times, but I think that's part of it. That's the adrenaline, that's the, that's the drive. That's what gets you there.
This concludes part 1 of our afternoon with Scott Parker. Come back tomorrow for round 2 with the infamous Avalanche enforcer as he shows off tattoos, disses Bob Hartley, converses about concussions, discusses the fate of the NHL enforcer and the recent tough guy tragedies, defends Todd Bertuzzi (really), tells the truths about why he retired, and reveals the details about his life in retirement.