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Exciting Leafs-Habs debut marred by horrifying Parros injury

George Parros hit his face on the ice when he fell after fighting Colton Orr Tuesday night. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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George Parros hit his face on the ice when he fell after fighting Colton Orr Tuesday night. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

An otherwise entertaining, if sloppy opening-night game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the host Montreal Canadiens was stopped dead in its tracks early in the third period when Habs enforcer George Parros lost consciousness after an altercation with Leafs tough guy Colton Orr.

It wasn’t a thundering blow from Orr’s fist that knocked Parros out; rather, Parros was unable to get his hands up in time as he and Orr fell to the ice, and he went face-first into the ice. See the terrifying video after the jump.

Parros lay motionless on his belly at first for about a minute, then after regaining consciousness, he was strapped to a spinal board, taken off on a stretcher, and transported to hospital.

In one respect, the injury could have happened on any play; it was an unexpected shift in weight and momentum that could’ve happened on a body check, as we saw with Kevin Stevens in 1993. As always, the standard disclaimer about how the game will never be 100 percent safe has to be issued, lest the straw-clutchers in the comment section get riled up.

But there’s no arguing one point: if Orr and Parros had been ejected from the game after their first fight in the first period, there’s no way Parros is hospitalized tonight. Tell me again why there shouldn’t be an automatic ejection for NHL fights?

To do so would allow fans of fighting and those who see it as a stress release valve to still watch fights. They just wouldn’t get to see the same guys punch each other repeatedly, repeatedly. Given what we’re learning about the long-term risk regular fighters such as Parros and Orr may face after their careers are over, the least we can do is acknowledge the toll one fight can take on them and not make them face two or three fights in the same night.

This is the nuance many fight fetishists can’t wrap their minds around. They throw out empty arguments such as the classic “you want to ban fighting”, when, at least for most people I know, that isn’t true at all. You can no more ban fights in hockey than any other sport. But you can punish it appropriately. And in all other sports, a fight gets you ejected.

The funny thing is, it wasn’t as if Parros and Orr were fighting again as another solo showcase of their unique skill sets. They were involved in a secondary fight (after Jarred Tinordi and Carter Ashton went at it first) than had no more effect on the outcome of the game than their first tilt did. It was just another opportunity.

And the truth is, when Parros is lying there and none of us are really sure if he’ll ever get up again, those subsequent opportunities the NHL, its owners and Players Association permit have zero “entertainment” value for me. The game doesn’t need it and the guys who fight for a living definitely don’t need it.

One night, one fight. Easy to comprehend, fair and the least the NHL can do.

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