MONTREAL – Members of the First Line, the Canadiens’ official adult fan club, got a chance to get up close and personal with two of the team’s toughest customers on Saturday morning.
Following successful Q&A sessions with Marc Bergevin and Chris Nilan last November and Geoff Molson and Patrice Brisebois in March, First Line members enjoyed a special preseason event with George Parros and Brandon Prust at the Bell Centre. Parros hit the hot seat first, fielding questions on everything from his toughest career fight and his thoughts on Russian laws heading into Sochi 2014 to the history behind his famous facial hair. Here’s a sampling of the intimate Q&A with the team’s new tough guy.
You, along with Brandon Prust and others, appeared in a video for You Can Play, which is a campaign dedicated to fighting homophobia in sports. I was wondering what your thoughts are concerning Russia’s anti-gay laws, specifically during the Olympics, which is arguably the largest sporting event in the world, and do you believe North American athletes – not just the hockey players – should accept Russia’s law or fight the homophobia, and if so, how?
GEORGE PARROS: Man, that’s a deep one right off the bat. (laughs) I definitely support gay and lesbian rights. You Can Play is a great campaign and I think it’s something we need to adopt and adapt to in the sporting [world] in general. [Regarding] Russia and those laws, clearly I don’t agree with them. I don’t know if I’m the voice that’s going to stand up and fight for those rights internationally and tell all the athletes they shouldn’t go over. That’s not my [place]. I guess that’s an easy [position] for me to take. It’s not going to happen overnight, fighting these laws. Nothing ever does. I think it’s slowly creeping into the consciousness of everyone and I think at some point we’ll get there. Whether or not it happens before Sochi, I doubt it, but we’ll see.
Good afternoon. Welcome to Montreal and thanks for being here. What’s your favorite road city to play and what’s your least favorite, and why?
GP: My favorite road city is Nashville. I’m a country music fan and that’s kind of the Mecca for country music. There aren’t any hockey reasons why I like to play in Nashville; it’s just the fact that there’s good music there and it’s a fun place to play and be – although their in-game entertainment can be fun sometimes. I’ve sat out a few games in Nashville before and their in-game entertainment is catered to country music fans. My least favorite place to play…I’m trying to think of a politically correct answer here! I don’t really like going to St. Louis. I don’t know why. It’s a little dreary and there’s not much going on there. It’s kind of like a stepping stone to the next city.
What I would like to know is, because of the way you play, how do your mother, your wife and your kids feel about it?
GP: My kids are really happy [when I’m playing] because they’re in the playroom usually throwing balls around. I have two-year-old twins. I’ve sat with my mother during sporting events when my brother’s been playing and certainly if that’s any indication, she’s a mess in the stands. She goes crazy – not excited-crazy, more on-the-edge-of-her-seat-crazy. My wife likes when I get in fights, so I guess that’s why we’re married. (laughs)
Being the new guy in town, do you think your presence in Montreal will make the other players react by saying, ‘Ok let’s go one step further to protect our players’? Will it change the way the other guys on the team play?
GP: I hope they don’t play too differently because they have a good team here and they had a good year last year. I hope I’m a good complement to what they’ve already done here and the type of players they already are. One of the best parts about playing in Anaheim was that we were a tough team, but also a very skilled team. Not everyone always has to fight, but it helps if something goes down out there that there are other players who are willing to get in and get involved and stop the fight or grab somebody. I always had Sheldon Brookbank who fought with me and if there was a smaller guy that was running around, hitting guys, it might not have been my job to take care of him, but I always had Sheldon there to take care of it. It`s nice when everyone else chips in because team toughness is much better than me running around and everyone else kind of playing a different style.
When did you grow that mustache?
I grew it in college when I could first grow one, but it was kind of weak back then. I would grow it for fun sometimes. After my first year in the NHL playing for the Kings, I went to Las Vegas so I grew a mustache out for the trip to Vegas for fun. I came back and started training at the facility and our new coach, who had just been hired, told me he really liked the mustache so I told him I was going to keep it for training camp. I kept it for training camp, but they cut me. I only played two games that preseason and one of them was against Colorado and I ended up getting picked up off waivers by Colorado. Naturally, I shaved off my mustache when I got to my new team because I didn’t want to show up as the new guy with a mustache like I was joking around or something. I show up in the locker room and Joe Sakic is the first guy that meets me, and he goes, ‘Where the heck is the mustache? We’ve been dying to see this thing and you shaved it off!’ I grew it back for him and it’s been there ever since.
After briefly sharing the stage with Parros, Prust happily took his turn in the spotlight, deftly handling questions that ranged from studying French and planning pranks in his spare time to the differences between playing in New York City and Montreal.
You play a really physical game, you get hit a lot and there’s often blood on your jersey. How do you get the blood out of your jersey?
BRANDON PRUST: Well, I usually hope it’s not my blood on my jersey. (laughs) I don’t know what they really do – I take it off, they take it into the back and the blood is gone when it comes back. I’m not sure what remedy they have or what they’re using back there. Maybe just a quick wash, but they must have something special.
Who is the biggest prankster on the team and what’s the best prank you’ve had pulled on you by a teammate?
BP: It’s usually me that’s pulling the pranks. Sometimes someone will have a new pair of shoes so you cut the toes off the shoes, or cut their socks. I’ve done one where you see a guy has their keys, their wallet and their cell phone all in their pocket so we got the trainer to sew their pocket shut on their jeans. That was in New York. We did it to [Marian] Gaborik.
I know you’re busy, but does [your girlfriend] Maripier [Morin] help you practice French?
BP: She does a little bit, but we end up just fighting because she doesn’t know how to explain things. I’ll ask her why you do something [in French] and she’ll go, ‘I don’t know, just because that’s how it is’. It’s tough because I’ll get home from the road or practice then she’ll get home from her day and we’re both pretty exhausted, so we just want to hang out for the hour we have together. It’s been pretty busy that way. This year I got Rosetta Stone so I’m going to try to learn on the plane and I’ve been thinking about getting a tutor as well. I know some basic stuff and I can pick up a little bit, but to hold a conversation is still tough. I’ve been hit in the head a lot, so it’s tough. (laughs)
I was wondering what your view is on visors? I know you don’t wear one, but have you ever considered wearing one? I know the NHL has brought out their new visor rule, so have you considered it?
BP: I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all. I think if I was a defenseman I would definitely wear one. If I wasn’t a fighter I would definitely wear one. Your eyes are very important and you should be protecting them. Like I said, I’ve been hit in the head a lot and I make bad decisions and I don’t wear one. (laughs) If you’re a guy in my role, it’s been an unwritten rule that you don’t wear a visor. I don’t think I’ll ever put one on unless they make us.
The first official First Line Q&A session of the 2013-14 season will take place on November 23. Head to firstline.canadiens.com to sign up for exclusive access to the session, ticket presale information, contests and more.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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