Hockey Hall of Famer, Stanley Cup champion, and one of the best defensemen in NHL history are just a few of the ways to describe Chris Pronger and what he did for the game of hockey. He was a physical threat who brought size to the table at 6-foot-6. He had a deadly powerful shot, and provided stable support in the scoring column. He really brought it all to whoever he suited up for. He finished up his playing career as a Philadelphia Flyer, and was a force to be reckoned with all the way up until he officially hung up his skates.
Pronger started his professional journey as a member of the Hartford Whalers. He was drafted by the franchise second overall in the 1993 Draft. He only played a couple of years with the club before being dealt to the St. Louis Blues for winger Brendan Shanahan. The Blues are where Pronger spent the majority of his career, being a solid complement on the backend to forwards like Brett Hull, Pierre Turgeon, and Pavol Demitra as well as other defensemen like fellow Hall of Famer Al MacInnis.
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A couple of years into his career as a Blue, Pronger was named captain of the organization, and held that role from 1997 to 2003. He made the All-Star Game five times while he was with the team (also made the All-Star Game in 2008 while elsewhere). He won the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the league in 2000, and also walked away with the Hart Trophy that same year as well.
He put up the following stats while in St. Louis:
- 1995-96: 7 goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 78 games
- 1996-97: 11 goals and 24 assists for 35 points in 79 games
- 1997-98: 9 goals and 27 assists for 36 points in 81 games
- 1998-99: 13 goals and 33 assists for 46 points in 67 games
- 1999-00: 14 goals and 48 assists for 62 points in 79 games
- 2000-01: 8 goals and 39 assists for 47 points in 51 games
- 2001-02: 7 goals and 40 assists for 47 points in 78 games
- 2002-03: 1 goal and 3 assists for 4 points in 5 games
- 2003-04: 14 goals and 40 assists for 54 points in 80 games
After the lockout in 2004-05, Pronger was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defensemen Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, and Doug Lynch. He chalked up 12 goals and 44 assists for 56 points in 80 contests for the team.
In the one season he was there, the Oilers made the Stanley Cup Final as a No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Pronger was the leading scorer during that postseason run with 5 goals and 16 assists for 21 points in 24 games. Pronger also made history during that series against the Carolina Hurricanes as he scored a goal on a penalty shot, something that had never happened in a Stanley Cup Final before. The Oilers ultimately fell in the Final to the Hurricanes in seven games.
Pronger was then dealt to the Anaheim Ducks the following summer for winger Joffrey Lupul, defenseman Ladislav Smid, a 2007 first-round pick, a 2008 second-round pick, and a conditional first-round pick. This has been considered one of the best trades in Ducks franchise history.
Pronger was added to a stacked Ducks team that included Ryan Getzlaf, Todd Marchant, J.S. Giguere, and Hall of Famers Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne. The Ducks made it to the Cup Final in 2007, and they were victorious. They took down the Ottawa Senators in five games, and Pronger helped capture the Stanley Cup.
He spent a couple more years in Anaheim, and was persistently dominant for the organization during the entire time he was there.
- 2006-07: 13 goals and 46 assists for 59 points in 66 games
- 2007-08: 12 goals and 31 assists for 43 points in 72 games
- 2008-09: 11 goals and 37 assists for 48 points in 82 games
However, despite this, it wasn’t long before Pronger was on the move again.
Top Defensive Piece to the Puzzle
In a move to help bolster the defense, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren traded for Pronger in the 2009 offseason. The official deal made was Pronger and forward Ryan Dingle to the Flyers; with Lupul (again), defenseman Luca Sbisa, a first-round pick in both the 2009 and 2010 Drafts, as well as a conditional third-round pick in either 2010 or 2011.
The defense Pronger was being added to at the time included Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, and Braydon Coburn among others. He fit right in, tallying 55 points (10 goals and 45 assists) in 82 games, which was good for third on the team in scoring for the 2009-10 regular season. The two teammates he was behind were Mike Richards (62 points) and Jeff Carter (61).
The Flyers as a core that year were resilient. They could not be kept down, and battled their way back from a 3-0 series deficit in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins to survive and advance. They made it all the way to the Cup Final, which was Pronger’s third appearance in the championship round. Unfortunately for him and team, they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks, but Pronger made his presence felt throughout that playoff run with a total of 4 goals and 14 assists.
Richards was traded by the Flyers during the summer of 2011, and the franchise announced that Pronger would be the next captain of the organization. He held the position for the rest of his tenure there.
Ending the Playing Career
Pronger played a couple more seasons as a Flyer, but injuries started playing a vital role in his life. He had dealt with arthroscopic knee surgery after the 2010 playoffs were over, and Pronger later dealt with post-concussion syndrome and took a puck to the eye as well over the course of a couple of years. With these health issues, Pronger was forced to stop playing hockey. The regular-season numbers of Pronger as a Flyer are as follows:
- 2009-10: 10 goals and 45 assists for 55 points in 82 games
- 2010-11: 4 goals and 21 assists for 25 points in 50 games
- 2011-12: 1 goal and 11 assists for 12 points in 13 games
In addition, he totaled 4 goals and 15 assists in 26 playoff games for Philadelphia (the games spanned between the 2010 and 2011 playoffs).
He finished his overall career with 1,167 games played, 157 goals, and 541 assists for a combination of 698 points in the regular season. For the playoffs, he hung up the skates having suited up in 173 postseason games. He netted 26 goals and 95 assists for 121 points in that amount of time.
Pronger was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. He also stayed close to the game, being hired by the Florida Panthers to be their Senior Advisor to President of Hockey Operations in 2017. He is still with the organization to this day. Pronger was included as a member of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players list, and the Blues plan on retiring his No. 44 during the 2020-21 season.
Pronger is a legend for what he was able to accomplish on the ice. He played a crucial role in helping organizations reach success. He made significant strides with the Flyers, and it was unfortunate he was not able to play a little longer and end his playing career on his own terms. Regardless, he was a solid asset on Philadelphia’s blue line, and he will always be remembered for the legacy he left behind in every place he went.