Thursday, June 3, 2010


To be honest, I've never been a huge Chris Pronger fan. He always came across as a border-line goon, slightly unstable, and far too sure of himself. He actually became something of a liability to Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics, revealing that he had lost some speed, and had to accept a role of a 6th defenceman, spelling much younger players like Keith, Seabrook and Doughty.

In the Stanley Cup finals, however, Pronger has come to the fore as a colourful and impactful player. I am slowly becoming a fan. Consider these two items:

First, Pronger is a refreshing breath of fresh air when it comes to media interviews. Too often in sports, the "interview" is nothing more than a fishing expedition combined with a cliche fest. Reporters try to unnerve players and coaches and provoke them into fits of anger and petulance which they can fit into neat sound-bites for their evening newscasts or fit into a column. In return, players and coaches seldom rise to the bait: they offer up the usual list of sports cliches and end up saying nothing. Reporters then use these bits of nothing to fuel speculation ( usually their own ) on potential strategy, impending moves, festering rifts and feuds etc.

Pronger, on the other hand, has fun with the media. He often ridicules the repetitve and hackneyed questions of reporters. He smirks and challenges them to re-phrase or ask another question. When a reporter is wrong or guessing, Pronger lets them know. When a reporter asks a legitimate question, as Elliott Friedman does on Hockey Night in Canada, Pronger offers honest and often inciteful answes. Not bad for a big rube from Dryden, Ontario.

Secondly, Pronger's play in the front of the Philadelphia net, specifically against Dustin Byfuglien ( how on earth is that pronounced "Bufflin" ?) is a throw-back to the tough and interesting days of pre-lockout, pre-new NHL that many of us like. Pronger and Byfuglien have been waging war in that zone, cross-checking and elbowing each other like two gladiators. Amazingly, the referees have been letting that go, and the result is intense and courageous competition between two evenly-matched competitors. It has been great to watch.

Pronger's defensive zone play supports a contention of mine for the "new" NHL. Why not create a zone in front of the net, say 10 feet wide and ten feet in front of the goal-line, where defencemen can keep the area clear for their goalies by moving stationary forwards like Byfuglien who merely stand still, using their huge size to screen the goalie? I'm not advocating slashing or hacking at a forward, but certainly using strength to move him aside and keep him honest. In return, the forward should be allowed to try to "muscle" his way into this zone. Competition? You bet !!

Thus, Chris Pronger has shown us the way for the "new" NHL to be a better, more entertaining game.

1 comment:

  1. That should be "insightful" in paragraph 4. Proof-reading rules !!!