Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chris Pronger Jersey Card

I mentioned a trade I made recently on yesterday's Don Beaupre post, which was two cards for one, with Frank from Frank's Hockey Autograph Blog. The second player going my way in the trade was Chris Pronger:
It's card #J-CP from Upper Deck's 2007-08 Series 1 collection, featuring a black jersey swatch to match with the picture of the towering defenseman, then suiting up for the Anaheim Ducks. The design is a little simplistic, and the card's corners are a little worn out, but I don't care.

I used to really not like Pronger. He started off with the Hartford Whalers, who picked him second overall in 1993. Perhaps it had to do with the team he was on, but he looked lost on the ice back then, like a deer in the headlights. And he had a multitude of off-ice problems, including bar-room brawls and DUIs. He only played in Hartford for two seasons before getting traded to the St. Louis Blues.

It was while in St. Louis that I really started to dislike him. He was thuggish, mean, and pretty much just evil, using his 6'6'' frame and 220 pounds to attempt to injure opponents rather than just take the puck away from them and try to get it in the opposing net. He played for Team Canada at the 1998 Olympics alongside other brutes like Eric Lindros, and I was happy when they choked, though I was sad for Wayne Gretzky and Joe Sakic. He was eventually made the Blues' captain and won the Hart and Norris trophies - three titles I think should have gone to teammate Al MacInnis instead.

He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers prior to the 2005-06 season, and was selected for the Olympics for a third straight time - and second major choke job, finishing in 7th place. But something special happened in the playoffs, where Pronger actually, magically, for a two-month period, became the best player in the NHL, putting up 21 points in 24 dominant games as the Oilers came up one goal short of the Stanley Cup, losing it to the Carolina Hurricanes in 7 games.

He would win the coveted salad bowl the next season... as a member of the Ducks, after having requested a trade out of the tundra and perpetual snow. I didn't follow him as much in Anaheim, but I had stopped hating him as a player, because he seemed to concentrate on actually playing the game, rather than always going for the kill.

His trade to the Philadelphia Flyers in June 2009 made a whole lot of sense, seeing as the Broad Street Bullies had an identity he fit right into, were contenders every other year (and a playoff-bubble team the next), and loved tough-playing giants with some talent. Unfortunately for them - and him - karma happened, and not only was his vision impaired after a high-stick to the eye by Mikhail Granovski, but a career of bone-crushing hits caught up to him in a (normal, hockey-play) collision with Martin Hanzal, leaving him with post-concussion issues that all but ended his career.

In the grand scheme of things, I think he would have deserved to play out his contract for having cleaned up his game of late, but it's also hard to cry for a guy who's won a Cup, a Norris, a Hart, Olympic gold, captained two teams, and made millions of dollars while injuring dozens of his peers. The Hall Of Fame will likely come calling, possibly even as a first-ballot inductee.

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