David M Singer
Oct 12, 2004
Scott Parker, “The Sheriff”, is an elite enforcer in the National Hockey League. Known as a power puncher, he carries a big reputation with him onto the ice.
Before last season the San Jose Sharks sent out a press release. It recapped the Brad Stuart – Jody Shelley incident, where Shelley punched Stuart in the back of the head, and Stuart missed 21 games with a concussion because of it. Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson said that will not happen again – and then announced the Sharks traded for Scott Parker.
Parker is not your volume fighter. He's not there to jump off the bench, fight, and go away. He's slowly earning more minutes, averaging close to 7 per game last year. He'd like to start averaging at least 10. What player doesn't want more minutes after all? A 30-goal scorer in the Juniors, he should have the skills to earn his team's confidence.
Last season Parker played 50 games before ending his season to have surgery on a nagging thumb injury. He finished the year with 101 PIMs and 15 fighting majors, but had only 13 minor penalties in those 50 games.
I had a chance to speak with Parker about his views on the game and his career.
Singer: As an NHL enforcer, how do you view fighting as part of the game?
Parker: Fighting limits the injuries that would happen to other players and it polices everybody to stay within the boundaries so things like the Steve Moore incident don't happen more frequently. That's the thing that a lot of people don't see – if one fight happens, it's better than two guys with their legs broken and a collarbone dislodged because of dirty play. Fighting actually limits the injuries that do happen throughout the whole year.
Singer: So you think fighting curbs higher forms of violence?
Parker: By far, definitely. If you go out there and step up for your team and you answer the bell, then – for one – the other team is going to respect you, the guy you fight is going to respect you and your teammates are going to respect you. It's a lot easier and a lot better to do it in that sense than it is to throw a cheapshot and try and hurt a guy permanently.
Singer: After the whole Todd Bertuzzi incident last year a lot of the media came down unjustly on fighting. Do you think the NHL will try to restrict fighting even further when it restarts and Bertuzzi's trial and suspension are over?
Parker: I don't see why they would. As I was saying, it limits the injuries and it limits that kind of stuff. Moore 's not a fighter, but he did fight. At least he stood up and he did what he had to do because he knew he had to answer the bell. I know Moore well and it was a big step for him to fight in that situation, especially being a college guy. I think it probably should have ended there, but unfortunately with the score and everything going on, tempers and emotions got the better of some people.
Singer: With the current rules that are in place, let's say the instigator rule…
Parker: We've got to get rid of that thing, that's number one.
Singer: How does it affect the way you play?
Parker: I definitely second-guess myself sometimes because of it. Every year they're making new rules, this, that and the other thing and before you know it, it's going to be European hockey. Everybody loves the tough play and the physical play at the NHL level, with the speed and the intensity. To add more rules is just going to take away from that. Guys are going to be less apt to even go into the corners, let alone go in front of the net for a scrum for that second whack at the puck. It's part of the game, and you just can't take the emotion and intensity out; and to be able to fight, that's part of our release in a way.
Singer: When you started playing for the Kelowna Rockets in the juniors, was being a tough guy your role or did you take it on in some other way?
Parker: I played a year of Junior B hockey in Spokane , Washington . We moved from Alaska to Spokane in 1994 and I was previously drafted by the Rockets, but they moved up to Kelowna that year. I was a young kid, and we just moved and I didn't feel like leaving home that soon so I played a year of Junior B. Up in Alaska we would go to the UAA games, the T-Wolves college games, and I would see Mike Peluso going out there. It was almost scary being up in the stands and watching everybody fight.
I'd never really been in a fight, and I was a 16-year old playing against 20-year olds. I remember my first fight ever was against a 20-year old guy up in Sicamous. I think we were beating them that game and he just drops his mitts and grabs me and starts wailing on me. I was right by the bench, I still had my gloves on and my stick in my hands and I didn't know what to do. I look over at the bench and they're like, “drop your mitts and hit ‘em!”. So I grab a hold of him, I didn't throw one punch the whole fight; I just rag-dolled him. My adrenaline finally took over, and from then I knew my strength and what I was capable of doing. That year I actually got into one other fight, so I had two fights in Junior B.
When I went out and tried out for the Rockets the next year I had grown almost six inches in one summer. I was a big kid, but I was really clumsy. I remember during my first game with the Rockets people were like “get this kid off the ice”. We had Jamie Butt and Dale Purinton. Dale was traded to Lethbridge and Jamie had to retire due to back problems. I'm looking around and I'm the biggest guy on the team. I was watching my guys get kind of pushed around and knocked around and I wasn't getting a lot of ice time, so I kind of fell into the enforcer role being a big guy, plus the fact that everyone wanted to try me. I started winning a few fights, and I gained a little more room. Then I started winning a few more fights and gave my team more room and I figured right from then on I knew I could help out the team in that way. It wasn't really something I was looking to do at the time, but it was definitely something that worked out for the best.
Singer: Do you think that's what you were drafted into the NHL for?
Parker: Possibly. I mean everyone wants a big kid. You can always try and make somebody better, but you can't make them bigger. So if you get a big kid, you can develop him and put him in the right direction.
Singer: Your last year in Juniors you scored 30 goals. Do you think anyone tried to develop your skills further after that, because you seem like you've been limited in your role even while you were in Hershey of the AHL?
Parker: To a degree. I've yet to really get the opportunity I'm looking for. I had a good talk with San Jose last year and they want to do a lot more with me, so I'm definitely looking forward to that. Last year I had to get thumb surgery at the end of the year. I had a tendon that was totally detached from my thumb that happened earlier in the year. So the whole year I was fighting it, but I was there for the team and doing the chants in between periods. There was a really good team chemistry that we had going on in San Jose and I'm definitely looking forward to getting back at it.
Singer: Did you hurt your hand in the last fight of last season or was that just from your on-going injury?
Parker: It was just hurting all year long. It was just fight after fight after fight, it was just getting worse and worse. It was hard to just shoot or pass and do anything in that regard.
Singer: How disappointed were you that you missed the playoff games?
Parker: I was disappointed but the boys were rolling along and we did a lot more than people expected us to do. Nobody even expected us to be in the playoffs, let along first in our division. We were rolling really well with the guys that we had. You're not an outcast when you're not playing. I mean we're walking around the room and high-fiving the guys, we're helping out however we can, and it's a big team effort. In the future I do want to play in the playoffs and that's something we've talked about as well, developing me for the playoffs and for bigger roles in that sense.
Singer: When San Jose traded for you they specifically mentioned Jody Shelley as a reason as why they acquired you. Did that set the bar kind of high? I think it was already a given that you had to meet up with him a few times during the season, but did their comments step it up a level – now you didn't just have to fight him, but beat him too?
Parker: To a degree, I think they just wanted an enforcer. The last real tough guy they had was Brantt Myhres. You almost need a guy that's big and has that type of a role, almost like a police officer in a way where stuff like the Jody Shelley and Brad Stuart incident won't happen. It's unfortunate it happened and I know what my biggest role is. There are different parts of my game that I definitely want to improve on and I want to help out the team as much as I can, in any possible way.
Singer: You know what your role is. It seems like some forget it as their careers go on because they feel they can't move on while still fighting as frequently. Can you break out of the enforcer-only role without lowering the frequency at which you fight?
Parker: I think you can be more effective. If you're playing three minutes a game, I think you might know what your role is. I want to get into a role where I play 10-12 minutes a game and if I have to fight, then I'll fight. If I can go out and hit somebody or I can go out and draw a penalty or if I can go out and do something else to help the team in different aspects, other than just going out, fighting and being in the box for five minutes, I think it definitely helps. You can't forget what got you there, and fighting was one of those things that got me to this level. I can never forget it, there are always kids chompin' at your heels wanting your job so it's definitely something I have to stay on top of. You got a lot of guys coming into the league that want to try you. It's a little overwhelming at times, but you have to do what you have to do to keep your job and help your team.
Singer: Speaking of guys trying to get at you all the time – Garrett Burnett – how long has that been going on?
Parker: That's been going on since my first year at Hersey. We played down in Kentucky and I believe we fought there. I don't know if I slipped or fell, but he was hootin' and hollerin' and playing it up and I was like “whatever”.
Later they came to Hershey and Burnett got into a fight with Troy Crowder. They fell to the ice and Crowds was on his back and both refs had control of things. One was trying to help Burnett up and let go of his right arm, letting him pull off and he just beat Crowds on the ice. His head bounced off the ice and he had to get nine or eleven stitches on the inside of his eye. It was brutal.
That was Hell in Hershey, the bench brawl. I looked back at the coach, Mike Foligno, and I was like, “Can I go? Can I go?” and he's like “no, no, no”. I waited two more seconds and again I was like “Can I go? Can I go?” I don't know if he said “no, no” or “go, go” so I just jumped the bench and went right after him. By that time they had just pushed him off the ice and closed the door and I was livid. Both benches cleared and I took off my tie-down and took off all my top equipment and I just circled around looking for somebody. I was pissed off to tell you the truth.
You don't cheapshot one of my players like that, it doesn't make any sense. Fight a guy straight up, whoever wins, wins, but at the end of the day respect yourself for being a fair player and a fair fighter.
Singer: When you first came into the league it seemed like you really wanted to have a go with Bob Probert…
Parker: Probie, he was my idol.
Singer: The first couple of games, nothing happened, but when it did, well, you remember the fight, I don't have to remind you.
Parker: I remember that fight pretty vividly. Well, a couple of seconds I don't remember there when he hit me. Like you said, I tried him earlier in the year and I respect him immensely for everything he's done and the guys he's had to mess with. I was just another kid chompin' at his heels saying “let's go”. I kind of know what he was going through now that I've been in the league for a few years. They were losing 4-1, and he comes up to me and says “let's go kid” and I was like “whoa, ok let's go”, thinking it might be my only opportunity. I just tried to re-grab and he's a smart fighter and did what he had to do and cracked me in the temple.
Singer: Do you regret not having the opportunity for a rematch?
Parker: I was just glad he wasn't really pissed off at me and didn't want to kill me to tell you the truth. The next time we faced off I was like “hey Probie” and he's like “what's up kid”, and I was thinking “ok, he's not really pissed off at me”. I don't know, it was a good run, and at least I can say I got to fight Bob Probert. I didn't give up though.
Singer: You definitely didn't give up there. Who came in to peel you away?
Parker: Odgy [Jeff Odgers] and [Adam] Deadmarsh. He was like “hey Parks, what's going on”. I was holding onto [Probert] so tight, and the ref was just hitting my hand. I was like “no…no…no…”, he says “let go you're choking him”. “No…no…” They came over, gave me a tap and they were shaking me a little bit and boom, snapped me out of it.
Singer: That was still a good first season you put up. Probert, Grimson…
Parker: I had what, McKenzie, Grimson…
Parker: Twist was my first NHL fight, that's a good start.
Singer: Yeah, I'd say. That's jumping into it.
Parker: There were a lot of tough guys.
Singer: I guess the flip-side to your Probert fight would be the Grimson fight.
Parker: When we played in LA and I knocked him out?
Parker: I remember that pretty vividly too. We were skating up the ice and I turned around and he smokes me, just punched me in the nose. I was like “what was that for?” and he got me really pissed before we were even fighting and then boom, I just cracked him.
Singer: Do you think that put you on the map?
Parker: I don't know if it was then, but it definitely gained me more respect with the players.
Singer: You had a rep coming into the league. Was it hard to live up to that?
Parker: I just tried to do as much as I possibly could in the physical play. Playing in Hershey and the AHL – the Philadelphia Phantoms, they were our rivals. We played them 12 times a year and they had like 8 goons. I was like “aw, geez”. It was crazy, but every game we did what we had to do and fought as much as possible. I don't know if it was really a rep going into it, but knowing what I could do and my capabilities were and what I wanted to do to take it to the next level. At that level you're fighting men and not boys, so it's definitely a step up. It was a different transition, but it was a fun one.
Singer: What is the number of fights per year that is ideal to you? Does it matter? With some guys, like Krzysztof Oliwa, it seems like that's all they're going to do. Go out there and fight. You don't rack up as many FMs, but is it because of reputation, so you don't have to go as much?
Parker: I punch 14 inches through the object. When I punch, I'm not throwing pillows, I'm trying to knock the dude's head off. I'm trying to get it through his head that if he fights me, he's going to get hurt. I don't want guys to like to fight me or look forward to fighting me. I want them to be scared shitless in the other locker room before the game even starts. That's what I try and bring to the rink, that type of respect; plus fight-wise I think I hurt my hands a lot more than the other guys do just punching that hard.
Singer: In regard to you being a power-puncher, a fight that comes to mind is the one you had in the AHL against Steve McLaren. You do a punch count on that one and he easily tops you, but then he skates away and his face is just busted…
Parker: Well, he didn't play for two months after that also because he had to have surgery I can't believe he didn't go down from that first punch. You gotta give him credit for staying up. I was expecting him to go down and when he kept punching, I was like “woah, we're not done? Ok…” He's a tough man, especially for him to be able to stand up like that after I gave him that shot.
Singer: Speaking of fights like that – that's a good fight, and people are going to debate that, win, loss, and look at it from every angle. Does scoring a fight like that even matter in terms of what it does to the game?
Parker: If you have a really dull game, and you need a pickup and the fans aren't into it, a fight can turn things around 180 degrees. You can have a totally dull game and then a fight breaks out and suddenly it's intense. Sometimes you just need that pickup to get the boys going or saying “hey, hop on my back and we'll get this thing done.” I really don't see how fighting and the whole aspect of it can be looked at as negative. Probably 90 to 95% of the fights that happen in the NHL or any of the leagues nobody ever gets hurt. Maybe a scruff on their hand, or they fall down wrong and hit their elbow or just something small like that. There are very few guys that get badly injured. More common are the injuries that happen from cheapshots, that's why this instigator rule has to be totally 86'd because it's ridiculous. You have guys skating around with pitchforks, and they're trying to protect themselves obviously, but if you're going to do something you have to own up to it. I think if they took the instigator rule out, that would make a huge improvement.
Singer: I think a lot of people would like to know who you think are some of the top tough guys currently in the NHL?
Parker: Shelley's up there, he's definitely a team guy. He does what he has to. Worrell's a big man. Brashear is up there as well, he's got the respect, and he can play the game as well. That's definitely the type of game I'd like to take mine to, but not forgetting what got me here…
Singer: He sometimes gets criticized for that.
Singer: Laraque's been criticized in the media for it as well, saying he's trying to drop fighting from his game without putting any points on the board first.
Parker: He had a rough year last year. He had that car crash and a few other things. We played them a day or two after the car crash. I remembered seeing that on tv and thinking that I don't know how they didn't get more injured from that. During warm-ups I went up to him and said “Hey Georges, how you doing after the wreck, you good to go tonight?” He says, “I'm still pretty beat up” and I can respect that. I'm not asking if they're hurt so I can go right after them. I can respect a guy if he's injured or his hand's sore. If he doesn't feel like he has it, that's tough, but if he's injured or something like that I respect it Basically, I want a guy who's 100%, so no one can say “oh, he was injured.”
Singer: Basically, you want a clean win.
Parker: Yeah, so when we throw down there's no looking back and saying “oh, he was hurt” or whatever. Just a clean fight. Unfortunately he was a little bruised and battered after that wreck. I got into my first car wreck last year in San Jose , so I know how that feels. This girl ran a red light and I smoked her. She did $14,000 worth of damage to my truck. We played Phoenix that night actually.
Singer: You went right to the game?
Parker: I was actually leaving pre-game lunch and I was thinking “oh, I haven't taken this way home, let me try this way.” That was stupid I guess. I was on the phone all day with insurance companies and it was just a gong show. I remember going right up to Nazarov and saying “let's go.” Man was I pissed off.
Singer: How much time in-season do you get to scout the other tough guys out there?
Parker: Off and on. We really don't have a whole lot of time. It's definitely different being on the west coast with the whole travel schedule. It was kind of nice being centralized in Denver because if you went to the west coast it was two hours, if you went to the east coast it's four. Being on the west coast we have such a grueling schedule. It almost seems like we're always on the road. We definitely have more time to watch tv and watch games. We have [Tim] Hunter as an assistant coach and I talk to him. He's a good man to have, he gives guys previous games and says “this guy fought, let's watch him.” He's definitely my main man for that.
Singer: Does he give you tips as well?
Parker: Oh yeah, we work on stuff; you're never too old or too good to learn. You can always get better, even the best players can get better, and if I can learn every trick in the trade then I'll just be that much better than the other guy. I'm always trying to raise the bar. I seem to be the only one throwing body shots in the whole league.
Singer: I haven't seen someone throw as many body shots, and as hard since Joey Kocur probably.
Parker: It's effective and you don't hurt your hands nearly as much.
Singer: What about all the armor guys seem to be putting on these days?
Parker: The tough guys usually wear loose stuff and small stuff up top so they're not being bound up from this big gear. I just go for the floater rib, which is the last rib on the cage. It's the easiest rib to break and I just punch, punch, punch and take a guy's wind away from him so they're thinking about breathing instead of punching. I've actually knocked guys down with them before.
Singer: Do you think they're underused?
Parker: To a degree. One thing I've got going for me is that I like long fights, like Darren Langdon. Langdon fights and the longer he goes, the tougher he gets. It's awesome to watch. That's definitely something I have going for me as well as wind.
I'm also wearing this new mouthguard called the Edge. You're biting down more in the back, but the front is opening up a bit, but I'm biting down as hard as I can in the back. If I get punched, I'm biting down, so if I'm in the middle of a breath I still have a good gap between my teeth so I can breathe; and if I get hit my jaw's not going to snap. “Bite the bullet” is their slogan. Ever since I've been wearing this I feel like I can go forever.
With the old mouth guards, it could be attached to your top teeth, but to breathe you have to drop your bottom jaw; and for that brief second someone can just whack you, and boom, your jaw is broken. With this you can always chomp down, still breathe and keep going, so I think it definitely helped me out last year.
(note: this is from Edge Sports, a division of BiteTech Inc, which you can visit at http://www.edgeprosports.com/ - Flash needed)
Singer: Now that the lockout has officially delayed the start of the season, are you just working out during the break or playing any hockey locally?
Parker: I'm just working out in Denver . We've got quite a few guys there. A lot of guys live there during the offseason just because it's a nice area. We've got plenty of rinks we have access to. It's more fun when you can work out with the other guys.
Singer: Is that were you keep your offseason home?
Parker: Yeah, I kept my place in Denver because of the whole lockout thing. I didn't need two mortgages, so I just rented in San Jose last year.
Singer: So you were already looking ahead a year ago that this might happen?
Singer: What are your plans during the lockout?
Parker: I'm just hoping for the best. I'm not going anywhere this year. I'm just hoping they can come to an agreement. I don't want to get too in-depth with another team or be somewhere else and have the NHL start up, which I hope happens.
Singer: So you still have hope that there may be a season this year?
Parker: Definitely. I'm just looking at the positives, just hoping there is a season and I always hope for the best.
Singer: Thanks a lot for taking out some time for hockeyfights.com.
Parker: You're welcome, it's no problem, I appreciate what you guys do on the site there.
Special thanks to Carlos Sosa.
Photos courtesy of PJ Swenson of Sharkspage
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