Fans who quickly listened to the live interview came away thinking that the Anaheim defenseman -- whose bitter departure from Edmonton is the stuff of hockey lore -- had accused Oilers fans of "breaking" into his house, stealing furniture that included his child's crib, and then burning it.
After hearing a recording of the interview, I can tell you there was a major miscommunication between what was said and what was reported. So where would listeners get the impression that Oilers fans broke into Pronger's house and went Devil's Night on his baby bed? You can thank Jim Rome for that. Here are Pronger's comments, following Rome's question about Edmonton fans' feelings towards him:
PRONGER: "You know what? There's nothing I can do about it now. It's happened. I think they obviously need to turn the page a little bit. I won't be going back there to play for their team. Having said that, you know, it keeps it interesting. It's another team that can boo me and it's a way for fans to stay entertained. As I said earlier in the program, at the end of the day you're trying to entertain the fans and if that's what it takes on any given night, it's just probably one building in maybe 20 now that I get booed in."The interview ended after Pronger's statement about Edmonton, at which time Rome continued with a short rant about the bombshell accusation (emphasis mine, dramatic speech pattern Rome's):
ROME: Does it erase the good times that you have there, and leave a bad taste in your mouth because of it?
PRONGER: "Um, yeah, there's obviously a few things that didn't sit well with me. For instance, taking the furniture that I had in my house and burning it and having a 'Burn Chris Pronger's Furniture Day', that didn't sit well with me very much. They burned my kid's crib, and things like that. So when you hear stories like that, it doesn't sit well. But having said that, you know, I've turned the page. It'd be nice to see them turn the page, but I doubt that's going to happen any time soon."
"You hear something like that and ... it ended acrimoniously, and the fans were upset and he left. But then to hear him say 'hey listen, it is what it is and I can't really change it and I can't fix it, but' ... certain things didn't sit well. To go into my house and get my furniture out and to burn it and to burn my kid's crib -- that's messed up. No matter how badly you think he wronged you or the team or whatever happened, to burn a guy's child's crib ... that's messed up. Were you so wronged by what a guy did to the local team, in your mind, that you'd go and find a guy's crib and burn it? Does it matter that much?"Pronger said "taking my furniture." Rome amplified that into "go into my house and get my furniture out." Big, huge, misleading difference, isn't it? But where did this story about a bonfire of the vanities (and cribs) come from anyway? Who took the furniture? Who roasted it?
This isn't the first time Pronger has made this accusation, having previously floated the notion in a 2006 interview with the Edmonton Journal:
"I knew I'd be Public Enemy No. 1 ... but I'm pissed off by all the rumors and innuendo surrounding my leaving," Pronger told The Edmonton Journal. "I've heard all the nasty stuff, about all my girlfriends ... that I've got more kids than I started with. I must have six kids out there.The good people at Oil Fans had their say on that 2006 interview. The CBC's Elliotte Friedman made a reference to the furniture burning in a 2006 column. Sean McCormick of Sportsnet mentioned furniture burning in a 2006 blog entry, and the comments referred to burning rental furniture.
"It started off with I slept with so-and-so, and I'm having kids, then it moved to my wife sleeping with some of my teammates. I was supposed to be having a kid with a reporter, then she said, 'I don't know what they're talking about.' Then it went from story to story. Some people even took my rental furniture from my house and burned it."
David Staples of the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey blog has his own transcript of the Rome interview and offered additional insight into where this story may have originated.
Indeed, there seems to be a notion from some fans that The Bear 100.3-FM, an Edmonton rock station, has some association with the stunt. But I couldn't find any citation or documentation of this actually happening -- and this might be one radio stunt the Edmonton media would have covered. More from Staples:
"Unless he is certain of the truth of this particular slander, Pronger should be careful about making such allegagtions if he truly wants to put this behind him. On the Hockey's Future board, there is talk that an unnamed Edmonton radio station did indeed bat around this stupid idea of having a "Burn Chris's Furniture Day," but there's been no confirmation that this ever happened."
Mr. Rome, there is no proof right now of any crib being burned, so you can rest easy.From suspensions in the postseason to the lingering animosity of his former fans to his status as one of the League's top defensemen, Pronger certainly remains polarizing.
And Mr. Pronger, your leaving will always rankle so long as you don't clear the air about why you left and instead stoke the fires around the bad feelings surrounding your departure.