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Chris Pronger: You Either Love Him or Hate Him

Jun 5, 2010 – 5:25 PM
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Alan Adams

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It is just as easy to like Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger as it is to despise him.

And there is no in-between. The native of Dryden, Ontario is a polarizing figure.

The towering presence on the Flyers' blueline is as nasty as he is skilled and he doesn't play to come in second. He is also arguably hated in more cities than any NHL referee.

Still, the former Hart Trophy winner is a guy you want on your team in a pressure-packed tournament like the Stanley Cup playoffs. And should Philadelphia prevail, he will probably walk away with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

Pronger was at it again in Game 4, a 5-3 Flyers win that evened the series at two apiece. Once again, he easily dominated the Blackhawks' top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien -- three guys who are much younger than Pronger's 35 years.

"Whether it's a dump or a chip, I think he makes you take the long way," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who coached Pronger when they were both with the Blues.

Series tied, 2-2
Flyers 5, Blackhawks 3: Recap | Box Score | Series Page

"This, right now, is why we did that trade. People said we gave up a lot for him, but he's everything that management thought he would be," Flyers winger Simon Gagne said after Game 4.

Pronger is also showing a surprising amount of restraint. He hasn't taken his usual spate of dumb penalties and he hasn't had a brain cramp and wound up with a suspension.

Think back to the cheap elbow he laid on the melon of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final that earned him a one-game suspension. For the record, that incident was Pronger's second banishment of the '07 playoffs. He was handed a one-game suspension in the previous round for a hit on Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom.

And while he's cut down on the questionable play on the ice, he sure hasn't reeled back his antics off of it.

His smart-alecky parroting in the media could be perceived as Pronger just being mischievous, but it says here his attitude is tiring and shows a lack of respect for the game and the players who play it.

Pronger created a stir when he picked up the winning puck after the Flyers lost in Games 1 and 2. When he was asked about it he didn't come off as an elder statesman, a player who has won a Stanley Cup, two Olympic gold medals, a Norris Trophy and the aforementioned Hart Trophy as league MVP.

"I didn't know the winning team was allowed to keep the puck," he said. "Is that a rule? Can you look in the rule book for me?"

Nice.

That's great PR for the publicity-conscious NHL.

When the defenceman didn't like the way a reporter phrased a question, a smug Pronger informed the scribe he didn't like the line of questioning and refused to answer it.

Again another example of someone who sounds like he is bigger than the game.

Pronger's behavior was brought to the attention of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who didn't come to Pronger's rescue.

"I don't know that anybody's brought anything to my attention that's crossed the line," Bettman said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "Some people find what he does entertaining, some don't. It depends on who you're rooting for, but he's been around long enough to know how to get close to the line without crossing it."

Which brings us back to the day Pronger was drafted in 1993, when No. 1 pick, and infamous draft flop, Alexander Daigle uttered the words that would haunt him forever: "Nobody remembers who was No. 2."

No. 2 happened to be Pronger, a player who appears to be building a legacy that we will be remembered for as many good things as bad.
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