George Parros's mustache looks as if a black bear dropped dead on his upper lip. He's the only NHL player that could pass for his own ancestor in a sepia tone photograph. Like Lanny McDonald, he's a player defined by his 'stache as much as anything he's done on the ice.
The Florida Panthers forward is also someone that uses his famous facial hair for a good cause: Parros is an active leader in the Movember movement, with a team of 13 Mo Bros (the "Parrosmos") challenge a team organized by Mike Brown of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a charity grow-off this month.
We spoke to the former Anaheim Ducks pugilist about Movember, Brown's formidable beard skills and, of course, the NHL lockout.
But first, how an NHL Hall of Famer helped bring the Parros 'stache back from oblivion.
Q. Give us the backstory behind the 'Stache. How old were you when you decided to grow it out and what made you decide to keep it all this time?
PARROS: The history of it …
I would start growing it for the playoffs in college. Just a fun thing to do. I guess when I turned pro, it was still kind of a novelty type thing. The actual mustache that you see today is a result of when I went to Vegas and grew it out there for a week at the end of the summer. I went to work out at the Kings' facility when I was with the Kings, and our new coach Marc Crawford made a comment that he liked it. I was joking around and said I'd keep it for camp. And he said, "You better keep it for camp."
So I did. And they cut me.
I had played against Colorado in the preseason, and when I arrived in Colorado [on waivers], Joe Sakic came up to me. I had shaved it. He pretty much yelled at me. "Where is it? We all were looking forward to seeing the 'stache in person?"
So it's been with me ever since. I went to Anaheim, and it gained a lot of popularity there.
Who on the Parrosmos do you think will have the hardest time growing a 'Mo?
Ville Leino. He was training with us for a while here and just took off. He might struggle.
We count nine LA Kings on your Mo team. Where are all your ex-Ducks boys?
The Ducks are in Orange County. They're in and out all summer long. I haven't been down to skate with them. I've always been in Hermosa Beach, which is Kings country. It's just a matter of being face to face with them every day. That's who I have on my team.
I'm not really sure who's going to be growing down there or not. I've left that in the hands of Bobby Ryan.
Of the Ducks, who would you have liked to have on your team?
Certainly Teemu [Selanne]. He always grows a mean one. He's a legend on the ice and a legend in the facial hair department.
Mike Brown's been preparing for this for quite some time. He seems pretty eager to do this. Is this battle basically the young grasshopper vs. the wily veteran?
Does that make me Miyagi?
This is a fun thing to do. Brownie's one of the guys in the League that has shown some growth on his lip for longer periods of time than just November. To have us go head to head will be a fun competition.
I'm assuming that he'll shave everything. Shave that beard he's been growing all summer long, and not just do the shave and a mustache thing. But it'll be a cool contest and really add awareness. And raise a lot of money too.
You strike us as someone that demands that a playoff beard start when then playoffs do, and that you don't start growing one in the weeks leading up to it. Let's face it: Shea Weber has a mighty playoff beard. But he gets a head start. He's a bit of a cheater.
That's what I believe. If you're growing a beard all year long, and have scruff all year long and transition it, that's fine. Some guys don't want to shave before the season. But if you're a clean cut guy all year round and then you start cheating early, then you're just playing to karma. That's going to bite you in the butt in the playoffs.
Given the lockout is still going on, you guys don't have the benefit of the in-arena promotion and TV coverage promotion for Movember. What are the plans to get around that and still get the word out on this cause?
Twitter's become an amazing thing. It's going to garner a lot of attention there, and there are a lot of guys around the League that are pretty popular there. Brownie, I don't know if he's going to fire one up or not, but he's got the Toronto Maple Leafs thing going on so he'll get a lot of attention there.
I just saw a picture of Brown's beard. It looks like he has bees on his face.
Oh my god. I know. It's awesome. I could never do that. My mustache would transition into a patchy beard.
You're a Panther now, but do you actually feel part of the team having had that transition interrupted by the lockout?
I wouldn't say that quite yet, now. I've met some of the guys through the different meetings with the union, and certainly anytime you meet new guys on the team I've never felt awkward and felt brought right into the fray.
But I haven't been in a locker room situation with any of the guys yet. I haven't been out to Florida. I've been out here in Southern California with my family. I'm still going in cold.
What's it been like being a part of this negotiating process with the NHLPA? You've been on the negotiating committee. Have you learned things in this process?
I went in with no expectations. I've never been part of a major negotiating like this before. My ears and eyes have been opened, that's for sure. I've always been a guy that's informed and knows what's going on, and can make an educated decision or two — or at least translate the message for other guys.
I think it's important that anyone that's going to be involved knows what the facts are. I've tried to stay as educated as possible, and I think it's become contagious. There are guys that didn't think they'd be involved that have gotten involved.
Don Fehr's done a great job of communication and transparency in the union. It helps us out.
Were you surprised by how the negotiations can be theatrical? That it's as much about image and posturing as anything else?
There's certainly the PR aspect of it. Trying to read across the board what they're doing with the media. There's dance there. It's something I didn't anticipate going into it, but it's part of the public mentality. It's an important part. It doesn't affect any decisions you make, but you want to make sure that the messaging you're sending out is truthful.
Players are still going to Europe at this late date. What's been the message from Don Fehr that would make, say, a Dustin Brown potentially leave his family for Europe in Nov.? Is Don saying 'get it while you can' or is he saying that it's going to go on for a while?'
There's been no messaging from the union as far as that's concerned. The only thing they've sent out is a message saying — and it hasn't changed since the beginning of the summer — is do what's best for your family. If you have the opportunity to go over there and play, and that's what's best for you and your family, then do it.
If guys want to go over there, stay on top of their games and make a dollar, I don't have a problem with it. It's not a bad thing at all. Especially if you're negotiating against people that can get jobs elsewhere, it gives us a leg up.
Finally on the lockout, Ryan Suter said he believed some of the owners negotiated in bad faith ahead of the CBA. Do you agree with that stance?
I couldn't comment on that. I'm not going to pretend to get in the mind of the owners, and whether they had a strategy and a plan.