Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Forman Files: Chris Pronger The Ultimate Warrior - 2015 HHOF Inductee

He was nasty, he was mean, but most importantly he was a fierce competitor. Chris Pronger was one of the toughest players to ever lace up a pair of skates in the NHL, someone who feared no one. While Pronger wasn't the most skilled guy on the ice he made up for it in so many different ways, a guy that players would dread playing because they knew they were in for a beating that night. Pronger was one of the best shutdown defenseman in the NHL, someone who would play against opponent's top line every night. What really impressed me about Pronger was his poise and calmness with the puck, something that made him one of the NHL's elite offensive defenseman throughout his career. I was always such a big fan of Chris growing up; his style of play is hard to come by in the NHL today and every team could use a guy like Chris Pronger. He finished his NHL career with 157 goals, 541 assists for 698 points in 1,167 career games. However, it was in the playoffs when Pronger really seemed to come alive, scoring 26 goals, 95 assists for 121 points in 173 playoff games. In this latest installment of the Forman Files, I take an in-depth look at the career of Chris Pronger days before his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame:

The Beginning:
Chris Pronger was born October 10th 1974 in the small town of Dryden, Ontario to parents Jim and Eila Pronger. Chris has one older brother named Sean, who would go on to play 260 NHL games himself, and the two boys grew up around the sport of hockey. Sean would take the college route and play division 1 College hockey at Bowling Green State University before being taken 3rd round, 51st overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 1991. Chris looked up to Sean as the older brother (2 years older), and looked to follow a very similar path to the NHL. In May of 1991, 16 year old Chris was receiving a ton of interest from division 1 schools in the USA, including Bowling Green where his brother Sean played. All signs pointed to Chris taking the college hockey route, but that didn't stop the Peterborough Petes from drafting Chris Pronger in the 6th round of the 1991 OHL Priority Selection draft. It seemed like the obvious choice was to join his brother, but the options were tough for Chris and Sean remember's the story of how he decided,

"I actually can still remember the conversation we had in our basement. It was me, my dad and Chris. He had just been drafted by Peterborough. I remember telling my dad I thought Chris should go major junior. Any other circumstance I would say college, but in his situation, it was a no-brainer when you realized what Peterborough had to offer. Obviously, it worked out fantastic."

via Pierre Lebrun (

The Peterborough Petes (1991-1993):

The Petes took a chance on drafting Chris hoping that he would come to Peterborough, and it was a move that paid off big-time for both the team and for Pronger's career. As a 16-year old in the OHL Pronger was ready to show he could play at the highest level, and he didn't disappoint totaling 17 goals, 45 assists for 62 points in 63 games in his rookie season (he would add 1 goal and 8 assists in 10 playoff games too). His 2nd season (1992-1993) was where Pronger would rise to elite status, as he become one of the OHL's best players that season. Pronger would score 15 goals while adding 62 assists for 77 points in 61 games on his way to winning the Max Kaminsky Trophy for OHL defenseman of the year. Pronger then lead the Petes to the OHL Championship in 1993, totaling 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points in 25 playoff games. The Petes would then move to the Memorial Cup, losing to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4-2 in the finals. Pronger would end his Petes career with the following stats: 124 GP: 32 goals, 107 assists for 139 points, playoffs 31 GP: 16 goals, 33 assists for 49 points.

On to the NHL - Hartford Whalers (1993-1995):

Following his record 1992-1993 season with the Peterborough Petes, Chris Pronger was one of the most sought-out players heading into the 1993 NHL draft. The Ottawa Senators selected 1st overall, and chose to pass on Pronger for highly-touted QMJHL star Alex Daigle. Daigle would play 616 NHL games with a bunch of different teams, a guy who dominated the QMJHL but never found his consistency in the NHL (never scoring more than 26 goals or 51 points). After being selected 1st overall, Daigle would go on to mutter this famous quote, "I am glad I got drafted first, because no one remembers number two!” This would end up going down as one of the biggest draft busts in NHL history, the Senators passed on Pronger (2nd overall to Hartford) and Paul Kariya (4th overall to Anaheim).

Pronger had an interesting rookie season in the NHL, starting with the GM that drafted him Brian Burke quitting just prior to the season. Early into his 1st season, Head Coach Paul Holmgren (who was also the GM without Burke) stepped down after being frustrated with the lack of effort his team was showing and wanting to focus solely on the GM job. This lead to Assistant Coach Pierre McGuire taking over, a guy who could never get the message across to his players and was ultimately fired later that season. Pronger would play 2 seasons with the Whalers, totaling 10 goals, and 34 assists in 124 games, In the summer of 1995, following the lockout-shortened 1994-1995 season, Pronger was dealt to the St. Louis Blues for star-forward Brendan Shanahan.

The St. Louis Blues (1995-2004):

At first Blues fans were not happy about this trade, Shanny was a fan-favourite in St. Louis and a Superstar in the making. Shanahan posted back to back 50 goal seasons (51 in 1992/93, 52 in 1993/94) before getting 41 points in 45 games during the lockout shortened 1994/95 season (237 points in 197 games during a 3-year stretch). Pronger was booed in his beginning in St. Louis, the fans were not happy about the trade and didn't think it was a smart move. That first season in St. Louis was tough for Pronger, he had just 7 goals, 18 assists for 27 points in 78 games and was often in the doghouse of Head Coach Mike Keenan. However, the Blues were a team on the rise and Pronger ended up being one of the most important pieces. The Blues had just traded for Al MacInnis the season before, and the two players would go on to form one of the best defensive partners in NHL history.

The Blues would also go on to land the legendary Wayne Gretzky during Pronger's first season in St. Louis, a guy who would be a huge mentor to Chris despite being there for less than a full season. The Blues would lose in the 2nd round that year in 7 games to the Detroit Red Wings, the famous OT goal by Stevie Yzerman, Bob Cole on the call, "YZERMAN SCORES! DETROIT WINS THE GAME, DETROIT WINS THE SERIES": (3:05 mark). Gretzky would depart from the Blues that summer to New York, but they were getting better thanks to guys like sniper Brett Hull, Pierre Turgeon and Pavol Demitra (RIP Pavol). Following the departure of Gretzky, Pronger would be named Blues Captain for the 1997-1998 season. Pronger was the Captain until the 2002/03 season, where injuries would limit him to just 5 games and the Blues naming MacInnis as Captain. Over the years the Blues added core guys like Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight, but Pronger and MacInnis were the anchors of the Blues for years (MacInnis retired after the 2003/04 season, Pronger would leave the Blues following the lockout in 2004/05).

Pronger would go on to play 9 seasons in St. Louis, totaling 84 goals, 272 assists for 356 points in 598 games with another 10 goals, 51 assists for 61 points in 85 playoff games, His best year was during the 1999-200 season in which he scored 14 goals, 48 assists for 62 points (all career-highs) in 79 games. Pronger would go on to win the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's MVP. Following the lockout, the Blues dealt Chris Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers for Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch.

The Edmonton Oilers (2005-2006):

Following the trade that sent Pronger to the Edmonton, the Oilers quickly signed him to a 5-year, $31.25 million contract. Pronger had a very successful year in Edmonton, scoring 12 goals and adding 44 assists for 56 points in 80 games. It was in the playoffs that Pronger really took off, he was by far the best player for the Oilers in their historic run to the Stanley Cup as the 8th seed in the Western Conference. The Oilers would upset the Presidents Trophy winners the Detroit Red Wings in 6 games in round 1, then the Sharks in 6 games in round 2 and the Ducks in 5 games in round 3. They would eventually lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in 7 games in the Stanley Cup Finals, a series overshadowed by the injury of Oilers starting goalie Dwayne Roloson.

This was Pronger's first crack at the Stanley Cup, and despite the loss he was a force in the playoffs with 5 goals, 16 assists for 21 points in 24 games. Following the 2005/06 season, Pronger requested a trade from the Oilers and was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks for Joffrey Lupul (first of two-times Lupul was traded for Pronger), Ladislav Smid and 2 1st round draft picks in the summer of 2006.

The Anaheim Ducks and the Stanley Cup (2006-2009):

In reality losing in the Stanley Cup Finals was a good thing for Pronger, the Oilers got really lucky to be in the Finals and Pronger carried them. After the trade to Anaheim, you could see Pronger was a man on a mission to win the Stanley Cup. The Ducks were a team filled with a mix of veterans (Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald) and youth (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz, Dustin Penner) and it seemed that Pronger was the missing piece of the puzzle for GM Brian Burke (the guy who drafted him in Hartford).

Pronger would go on a tear in his first year in Anaheim scoring 13 goals, 46 assists for 59 points in just 66 games (his 2nd-best career totals for all 3 categories). Pronger would then go on to score 3 goals, 12 assists for 15 points in 19 playoff games en route to the Stanley Cup. Pronger would spend 3 seasons with the Ducks, totaling 36 goals, 114 assists for 150 points in 220 games (add another 7 goals, 23 assists for 30 points in 38 playoff games). Following the 2008/09 season, Pronger was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Joffrey Lupul (again), Luca Sbisa, 2 1st round picks and a 3rd round pick.

The Philadelphia Flyers and his Career-Ending Injury (2009-2012):

Once again Pronger was the guy traded to a team that needed the missing piece of the puzzle, and Pronger became a fan-favourite in Philadelphia very quickly. For the 3rd time in his career, Pronger joined a new NHL team and lead them to the Stanley Cup Finals in that same season. Pronger would go on to score 10 goals and 45 assists for 55 points in his 1st season in Philadelphia, in which the Flyers qualified for the playoffs in a shootout on the final day of the regular season. The Flyers would beat the Devils in 5 games, before beating the Bruins in 7 games in one of the biggest comeback's in NHL history (down 3-0 in the series, down 3-0 in game 7). The Flyers would cruise past the Habs in 5 games to the Stanley Cup, where they would eventually lose to the Blackhawks in a hard-fought 6 game series.

In 3 seasons with Flyers Pronger scored 15 goals, 77 assists for 92 points in 145 games (add another 4 goals, 15 assists for 19 points in 26 playoff games). Pronger was named the Flyers Captain in the summer of 2011 after Mike Richards was traded, but the 2011 season was the last we saw of Chris Pronger. On October 21st, 2011, Pronger was struck in the face by an errant high-stick from Maple Leafs F Mikhail Grabovski (see below):

Pronger would be sidelined with an eye injury in which he had trouble with his vision and a cut near his eye. Pronger would return briefly before sustaining a concussion on a hit from Martin Hanzal on November 17th, 2011. Chris would play 2 nights later against the Winnipeg Jets, but that was the last NHL game Pronger would play in his illustrious career. Lost in all of this is that he had just signed a 7-year deal with the Flyers in 2009, so he technically is still not retired from the NHL right now (and will be paid until the end of the 2016/17 NHL season). This lead to him being traded to the Coyotes this summer because of the Flyers cap issues, so he will technically retire a member of the Coyotes (once his deal is up) despite never playing a game for them. For a guy who had such a successful career, it was a shame to see him exit the game like this.

International Play for Team Canada:

For a guy who had a very successful NHL career, he was also a force in international hockey for Team Canada throughout his career. He started his international career playing for Team Canada at the 1993 World Junior Championship, where he had 1 goal and 3 assists in 7 games en-route to the Gold Medal. Pronger would then represent Canada again in 1997 at the World Hockey Championship, picking up 2 assists in 9 games en route to another Gold Medal. This would lead Pronger to a spot on the Olympic team in 1998 for the Nagano Olympics, where he was held pointless in 6 games and Canada finished 4th.

Pronger would make Team Canada for the Olympics 3 more times in his career, winning gold in 2002 and 2010 (where he was an assistant Captain) while Canada finished 7th in 2006. Pronger won 4 Gold Medals in 6 international events with Canada, a huge accomplishment. As well, when Pronger won the Stanley Cup in 2007 he had officially joined the Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold and World Championship Gold).

Suspension History:

For as good as Pronger was a player offensively, he was just as nasty defensively and he found himself in trouble with the NHL quite often in his career. Pronger was suspended 8 times in 18 NHL seasons, here is a list of all of them:

• 1995: The league suspended Pronger, then with the St. Louis Blues, for four games after he hit Capitals forward Pat Peake in the throat with a stick during a Oct. 29 game at the Kiel Center. Brian Burke, the NHL's director of hockey operations at the time, held a hearing with Pronger, Blues GM and coach Mike Keenan, Pronger's agent and a NHL Players' Association rep. Peake suffered a fractured thyroid cartilage and was expected to miss four weeks at the time of the hit.

• 1998: Pronger, still with the Blues, was suspended for four games for slashing Phoenix's Jeremy Roenick on Dec. 17, 1998. Pronger drew a match penalty when he took a swing at Roenick's helmet. Colin Campbell, the NHL senior vice president and director of hockey operations, ruled that Pronger was attempting to injure Roenick in an "extremely reckless and dangerous manner."

• 2001: Pronger was suspended without pay for one game after leaving the bench and instigating a fight with the Kings' Kelly Buchberger during an Oct. 11, 2000 game. Blues winger Pavol Demitra suffered a broken nose when Buchberger hit him with an elbow during the second period. That hit provoked Pronger to leave the bench.

• 2002: Pronger received a two-game suspension without pay for cross-checking Stars forward Brenden Morrow in an April 3 game. The suspension cost Pronger $231,707.32 in salary. The cross-check left Morrow bleeding near one of his eyes. St. Louis beat Dallas 2-1 in overtime.

• 2004: Pronger, still with St. Louis, was suspended one game without pay for kicking Calgary's Ville Nieminen during a March 14 game. Pronger kicked Nieminen with 9:23 gone in the first period, but there was no penalty on the play. The suspension came as St. Louis was making a late push for the playoffs. The Blues were later ousted in the first round.

• 2007: Pronger, in his first postseason with the Ducks, was suspended one game for his hit on Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on May 15. Pronger and Rob Niedermayer drove Holmstrom into the glass from behind midway through the second period. The hit knocked off Holmstrom's helmet and left him on the ice with a cut to his forehead. Holmstrom did return to the game. Niedermayer received a five-minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct. Pronger was not penalized. Replays apparently showed Pronger hitting Holmstrom in the head with his elbows, leading the NHL to review the incident.

• 2007: Pronger was suspended one game for his blow to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. McAmmond was struck as he skated with the puck toward the Ducks net. He did a spin, fell backward, struck his head on the ice, and slid into the corner in the Anaheim zone at 2:01 of the third period. McAmmond was briefly knocked out and left the ice looking woozy after several minutes of on-ice attention.

• 2008: In the first minute of the second period of the Ducks' game March 12 against the Vancouver Canucks, Pronger and Canucks forward Ryan Kesler got tangled up in the corner behind the Anaheim goal. Kesler, a hard forechecker, hit Pronger but ended up on his back, with Pronger's right foot between his legs. Pronger got his foot free, but video shows he took his foot and stepped hard on Kesler's left leg. Kesler was not injured, but he was adamant after the game that Pronger intentionally stepped on his calf. The NHL reviewed it, and no punishment was initally administered. The league got better, clearer video the next day, and on March 15, handed down the eight-game suspension, the longest of Pronger's career.
Career Statistics:

Regular Season:
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM +/-
1991-92 Peterborough Petes OHL 63 17 45 62 90
1992-93 Peterborough Petes OHL 61 15 62 77 108
1993-94 Hartford Whalers NHL 81 5 25 30 113 -3
1994-95 Hartford Whalers NHL 43 5 9 14 54 -12
1995-96 St. Louis Blues NHL 78 7 18 25 110 -18
1996-97 St. Louis Blues NHL 79 11 24 35 143 15
1997-98 St. Louis Blues NHL 81 9 27 36 180 47
1998-99 St. Louis Blues NHL 67 13 33 46 113 3
1999-00 St. Louis Blues NHL 79 14 48 62 92 52
2000-01 St. Louis Blues NHL 51 8 39 47 75 21
2001-02 St. Louis Blues NHL 78 7 40 47 120 23
2002-03 St. Louis Blues NHL 5 1 3 4 10 -2
2003-04 St. Louis Blues NHL 80 14 40 54 88 -1
2005-06 Edmonton Oilers NHL 80 12 44 56 74 2
2006-07 Anaheim Ducks NHL 66 13 46 59 69 27
2007-08 Anaheim Ducks NHL 72 12 31 43 128 -1
2008-09 Anaheim Ducks NHL 82 11 37 48 88 0
2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 82 10 45 55 79 22
2010-11 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 50 4 21 25 44 7
2011-12 Philadelphia Flyers NHL 13 1 11 12 10 1
NHL Totals 1167 157 541 698 1590

Season Team GP G A Pts PIM
1991-92 Peterborough Petes 10 1 8 9 28
1992-93 Peterborough Petes 21 15 25 40 51
1993-94 Hartford Whalers -- -- -- -- --
1994-95 Hartford Whalers -- -- -- -- --
1995-96 St. Louis Blues 13 1 5 6 16
1996-97 St. Louis Blues 6 1 1 2 22
1997-98 St. Louis Blues 10 1 9 10 26
1998-99 St. Louis Blues 13 1 4 5 28
1999-00 St. Louis Blues 7 3 4 7 32
2000-01 St. Louis Blues 15 1 7 8 32
2001-02 St. Louis Blues 9 1 7 8 24
2002-03 St. Louis Blues 7 1 3 4 14
2003-04 St. Louis Blues 5 0 1 1 16
2005-06 Edmonton Oilers 24 5 16 21 26
2006-07 Anaheim Ducks 19 3 12 15 26
2007-08 Anaheim Ducks 6 2 3 5 12
2008-09 Anaheim Ducks 13 2 8 10 12
2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers 23 4 14 18 36
2010-11 Philadelphia Flyers 3 0 1 1 4
2011-12 Philadelphia Flyers -- -- -- -- --
NHL Totals 173 26 95 121 326


Year Team

Result GP G A Pts PIM
1993 Canada WJC  Gold 7 1 3 4 6
1997 Canada

 Gold 9 0 2 2 4
1998 Canada

 4th 6 0 0 0 4
2002 Canada OG  Gold 6 0 1 1 2
2006 Canada OG  7th 6 1 2 3 16
2010 Canada

 Gold 7 0 5 5 2
Junior totals 7 1 3 4 6
Senior totals 34 1 10 11 36


Joel Forman - The Forman Faceoff

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