Anaheim Ducks tough guy George Parros and UFC fighter Sam Stout have a few things in common.
By Evan Lips | Photos by Maxwell Cohen
man works in an octagon, the other a skating rink.
The man in one corner is two parts Capt. Jack Sparrow,
one part Yanni and 100 per cent mean, at least when
he's on skates and working the corners for the puck.
Get into a scuffle with him on the ice and he'll knock
your brains headlong out of the Acropolis. So much of
his self-worth comes from the bristling black mustache
he sports above his lip - it's an inside joke, but not
really. The man is "the 'stache," the stache is The
Then there's this other guy. He's clean cut, his face
shaved and Canadian - a wheat prairie boy from London,
Ont., who resembles a New York Yankees farmhand,
called up today from Triple A. Last June he lit up the
Ultimate Fighting Championships world with a one-punch
knockout that would make Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren's
character, of Rocky IV lore) turn his underwear into a
Jackson Pollock painting.
They're known as tough guys, on the ice and in "The
Octagon," but that's where the bloodshed stops. You
see, there's heart, and then there's Anaheim Ducks
forward George Parros. And then there's a man who'll
stop at nothing to protect his family, and his name is
UFC fighter Sam Stout.
One grew up a slapshot away from the New Jersey
Turnpike, the other was raised in the incandescent
shadow of Toronto's bright lights.
many hockey fans are aware that Parros, the
Princeton University man whose senior thesis
researched the plight of the California
longshoreman during John Steinbeck's dust-bowl
era, was plucked by the Los Angeles Kings in the
eighth round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft because
a few scouts thought he had a scoring touch. But
Parros knew better - plenty of guys got NHL
attention due to a few goals and assists scored
in a nameless rink against talentless teams.
Parros realized at an early age that the only
part of his game that would get him to the NHL
was his bare knuckles.
Stout, he of London, Ont., says he got hooked on
mixed-martial arts when he was barely out of
puberty. The man who served as his mentor,
coach, best friend and eventual brother-in-law
taught him the ways of Muay Thai kickboxing when
he was just 16 years old. The gift Shawn
Thompkins gave Stout has paid itself tenfold
over the course of the last decade.
"He broke me down and built me from the ground
up," Stout said of Thompkins, who had been his
trainer up until Aug. 14.
Stout, a 27-year-old UFC fighter with 24 mixed
martial arts victories on his resume, does not
tower over anyone. He's listed as being five
feet and nine inches tall and weighing just a
shade under 155 pounds. But when he squares up,
there's a reason why fans and other professional
fighters call him by his nickname: Hands of
Stone. For a hockey player, it might not be the
best moniker (think "Bill Clement, Hands of
Cement!" for hockey fans who remember the former
ESPN hockey analyst and Philadelphia Flyer), but
the nickname suits Stout just fine.
Last June during UFC 131 in Vancouver, Stout
flattened 34-year-old MMA veteran Yves Edwards
with a perfect one-punch knockout - the type of
leveling that drew fans to their feet, chanting
his name, like Russell Crowe in Gladiator
shortly before he "has his vengeance, in this
life or the next."
Stout said earlier this month that his knockout
of Edwards, a fighter nicked named "The
Thugjitsu Master," was "definitely the highlight
moment of my career."
But there was no taunting after his victory.
Just a primal scream of joy and two arms
raised high in the British Columbia night. Like
Parros' relationship with other enforcers in the
NHL, there's a "code" in the UFC.
"There's a respect in this league that comes from the hours of training
and work that every guy puts in," said Stout.
That sense of respect for thine enemy is also embedded in Parros' veins.
He admits that he's a UFC junkie who never misses a fight unless he has
commitments on the ice. Outsiders are always asking him: when you hang up
your hockey gloves, any interest in baring your fists for a UFC bid?
But Parros and his fierce black 'stache remained ambiguous last month when
asked about the possibilities. "Those guys are in some serious shape," he
said, commenting on the fitness level of UFC fighters. "It's completely
different and they're as tough as they come. Maybe if I got 'em on
So while he might be the biggest mixed-martial arts fan in the National
Hockey League, the closest he's come to mixing it up in eight-sided circle
happened when he took on UFC fighter and "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Tito
Ortiz in a Wii boxing match for charity last October.
This week Parros has his own conditioning to worry about. It's
mid-September and the 31-year-old enforcer, who racked up 171 penalty
minutes and 27 fighting majors last season, is getting prepared to lace up
the skates. He's spent a lot of the summer running on the sand near his
Hermosa Beach, Calif., home -- but pretty soon he'll be breaking out the
"I've got a sparring partner I work with," he adds matter-of-factly, as if
it's a natural part of NHL off-season conditioning. Suffice it to say,
Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews don't work with sparring partners.
But there's also a soft
side to Parros. The man who married a Wisconsin girl is an addict when it
comes to the Ducks Foundation, his team's charity. He's chopped off his
flowing locks to help raise money for children with cancer, met with
American troops stationed overseas and now works with Defending the Blue
Line - a nonprofit that helps pay for ice time, equipment and coaching of
children who love hockey but face the obstacle of having a parent
Still, the man loves a
good throwdown. Parros said he started watching UFC fights when he was 14.
The wrestling craze that reeled in a lot of his school friends while he
was growing up in western Pennsylvania and New Jersey never caught. "All
that grabbing and grappling just looked lame," he said.
Parros is no newcomer to the UFC bandwagon -- he's the kind of UFC fan who
knows the history. "Rorian Gracie was kind of like Sgt. Slaughter but with
more hair," he says about the UFC co-founder. "He helped build UFC into
what it is today."
His only gripe about the UFC is the noticeable lack of mustaches. Gracie,
he said, rocked a ‘stache in his early days. But Parros said he can't
think of a single mustachioed UFC fighter. "That's gotta change," he said
with a chuckle. "That just ain't right."
Take a look at Stout's face and you'll see the anti-Parros. Every inch of
his scalp is razor-sharp, just like his physique. There are no flowing
locks, just veins flowing with juice.
But Stout and Parros, the American and the Canuck, happen to share a
common bond: you don't mess with either of them when it comes to their
On the night of Aug. 14, Stout's trainer, brother-in-law and "most
influential person" in his life, Shawn Thompkins, passed away. The man who
married Stout's sister and introduced him to Muay Thai kickboxing was dead
Stout later announced he was backing out of his scheduled Oct. 29 Las
Vegas matchup against German lightweight Dennis Siver. Up until Thompkins'
death, Team Stout was riding high. The young fighter had compiled a 4-1
record and racked up four fight night bonus awards in his last five
Said Stout: "I need some time to figure out what I'll do without him...
[he was] the only coach I ever had."
Stout said he spoke to Dana White and UFC Vice President of Talent Joe
Silva about his decision to temporarily step away from the sport.
"There was no question, they told me to take the time I need and said they
understood," said Stout. "They said if there was anything I needed they'd
be there. They've been good to me over the years and I think I've been
good to them."
It's an unexpected twist of events for the man who strode victorious out
of The Octagon just two months before. Stout admitted that the shot of
adrenaline he felt after June 11 fired him up – he was walking on air -
and after recovering, he hit training "like a man possessed."
Parros, whose biggest shot of adrenaline likely arrived in 2007 when his
name was engraved on the Stanley Cup, remembers his younger days and
thinks about the time the UFC found him, instead of vice versa.
Flashback to Jan. 23, 2006. It's Parros' rookie season. He hasn't yet
landed in Orange County with the Ducks but he's pretty close. As a Los
Angeles King, Parros knew that if he wanted to stay in the NHL, he was
going to have to bare his knuckles.
"I heard that (UFC President) Dana White was going to be in the stands
that night," said Parros. "He saw me get into it in the corner with Todd
Fedoruk. There was no way I was not going to fight that night."
Fedoruk, playing for Anaheim at the time, quickly found himself
helmet-less and struggling against the charging Parros. According to
Parros, White went crazy.
"I was living with J.R. (Jeremy Roenick) at the time and he knew Dana and
took him to the game,” said Parros. "After the game I'm hanging out with
Dana and I can't believe it. He loved the fight."
Despite the fame, the fortunes and the regular grind of the NHL season,
Parros knows there will be a day when he won't be wearing an Anaheim Ducks
uniform - or any other hockey jersey, for that matter. That's when his Ivy
League education comes in - here's a guy who can put pen to paper, not to
mention fist to face. A guy who was recently ranked by The Sporting News
as the fourth smartest professional athlete in the world.
Parros said he'll play as long as he can, but his chief priority for the
future is not how he'll be remembered on the ice, but how he's going to be
remembered as a man.
For Sam Stout, the number-one priority right now remains his sister,
Emilie, who still grieves over the loss of Thompkins.
"She is a strong personality," he said of his sister. "She's holding up
OK. She's obviously lost the most important person in her life."
There's no timetable set for Stout's return to UFC.
Weeks ago, Parros was spotted in the gym taking up kickboxing, according
to a Sept. 7 story that appeared in the Montreal Gazette. Parros explained
that the sport helps him practice keeping his balance.
And if there's one thing that both Stout and Parros don't need any
practice doing, it's maintaining a balance between their lives inside
their respective arenas and the life that awaits them on the other side of
the locker room.