2015 HHOF Induction Profile: Chris Pronger

The Hockey Hall of Fame is welcoming seven new members into its prestigious halls on Monday, November 9, 2015. Join us here at Last Word On Sports as we take an in depth look at the new inductees. We continue the series with one of the best two-way defensemen of the 1990s and 2000s, Chris Pronger.

2015 HHOF Induction Profile: Chris Pronger

Chris Pronger was one of the last links to the early 1990s NHL, now leaving Jaromir Jagr as the sole player to be active and drafted before 1995. Granted Pronger has not played since 2011-12, when a combination of concussions, eye injuries, and his style of play finally caught up to him. He’s been on the LTIR every year since then and it’s widely known that he would never play again. While he is still considered an active player, the Hockey Hall Of Fame recently passed a rule stating that if a player has not played for more than three seasons, even while under contract, he would be eligible for entry into the hallowed Hall.

The Start

Pronger started his junior career with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL in 1991-92, putting up 62 points in 63 games as a rookie. The Petes had a deep playoff run before losing in the third round to the North Bay Centennials in five games. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds went on to win the Memorial Cup. The next year Pronger improved his numbers and was a huge part of the Petes once again being atop the OHL standings. They beat the Greyhounds in five games to take home their sixth Memorial Cup in franchise history. For his efforts and play, Pronger was awarded the Max Kaminsky Trophy in the OHL for the most outstanding defenseman.

He was then selected second overall by the Hartford Whalers in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, behind Alex Daigle, who famously said at the time, “I’m glad I got picked first because nobody remembers who is picked second.” Hey, what are you up to these days, Alex?

He started playing immediately for the Whalers and put up 30 points in 81 games, finishing second overall in rookie scoring for defenseman, behind Boris Mironov. He was also on the NHL All Rookie team for his great play. The next season, which was cut in half due to the 1994-95 lockout, he saw a small drop in his production, a regular occurrence in sophomore defenseman. But despite that he finished fourth in defense scoring on the Whalers.

For all his great play on the ice with the Whalers, he had some off ice struggles, being involved with at least two incidents. The first incident was a bar brawl that saw six members of the Whalers organization be arrested. After his rookie season ended, he was arrested for drunk driving in Ohio. The Whalers then decided to trade him to the St. Louis Blues for Brendan Shanahan.

Trade to the St. Louis Blues

Pronger’s tenure with the Blues is what set off his domination on the blueline for many years to come. With “Iron Mike” Keenan as coach and GM, he demanded much from Pronger and had him work harder on his conditioning and also improving his defensive play. The Blues had a strong team with Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Wayne Gretzky (for 18 games), Dale Hawerchuk, Geoff Courtnall, Pierre Turgeon, Craig Conroy and Steve Duchesne, among others, within the first couple years of Pronger’s stay with the Blues. Playing with MacInnis obviously had an impact on his career and after his second season in blue, he started putting up career highs and displaying the potential that made him a second overall pick.

By 1997-98, he was named the captain of the Blues after Hull had left for the Dallas Stars. He then started taking control of the team and the blueline. He scored 36 points in 97-98, 46 points in 98-99, but it was his 1999-2000 season that remains his best year where he racked up 14 goals and 62 points, finishing second overall in defenseman scoring in the league, behind fellow HHOF inductee Nicklas Lidstrom.  He was awarded his only James Norris Trophy, along with the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Bud Light Plus-Minus Award for having a league best +52. Despite his career year, and the Blues having a balanced scoring team, they were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs in a hard fought seven game series versus the San Jose Sharks.

The next four years saw Pronger suffer various injuries, limiting him to 214 games out of a possible 328. He had 47 points in 51 games during the 2000-01 season, where he was on pace for another career year and 47 again in 78 games for the 2001-02 season. But it was the 2002-03 season where he only suited up for a total of five measly games. During this season, MacInnis assumed the captaincy while Pronger was injured. He came back in the 2003-04 season and showed that his offensive game wasn’t a one-hit wonder, tying a career high 14 goals and 54 points in 80 games. The Blues were again knocked out in the first round by the Sharks in five games.

Edmonton Oilers 

The next season the NHL underwent a lockout and implemented a league-wide salary cap. This change saw many teams trade away big names to get themselves under the cap and Pronger was one of those names. He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch, and Jeff Woywitka. He signed a five-year contract with them upon being acquired.

He immediately found success with the Oilers, notching 12 goals and 56 points in 2005-06, good enough for ninth overall in defenseman scoring. He was a huge part of the team’s deep playoff run, getting all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals where they faced the Carolina Hurricanes. But the Hurricanes were able to grind out a game seven win and won their first and only Cup to date. It was a bitter loss for Pronger, not only because he lost the Cup but because the Hurricanes were the Whalers before relocating to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Just when the Oilers and their fans were getting excited about having Pronger for four more years, it was revealed that he had requested a trade after the playoffs had ended. There were many rumours swirling around as to the reason for wanting a trade but it was never truly confirmed. They were able to work out a huge deal with the Anaheim Ducks. The Oilers received Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, and three draft picks but the deal is still hated to this day, as the only good piece that came of that deal was the 2008 1st round pick, which turned into Jordan Eberle. The Oilers have still not returned to the playoffs since that season.

Anaheim Ducks

He found instant chemistry playing alongside great defenseman Scott Niedermayer in Anaheim. Pronger scored 59 points in 66 games while Niedermayer had 69 in 79 games and from then on, one of the best pairings in the late 2000s era was born. He played an integral part of the Ducks Cup run in 2006-07, racking up three goals and 15 points in 19 postseason games. While he didn’t win any individual awards for his efforts, it was a great moment in his career to see him finally raise the Cup after a prior visit to the Finals and a third round defeat in 2000-01 while playing with the Blues.

The next season saw his numbers drop to 43 points in 72 games, which could have been attributed to Niedermayer missing almost half the season due to injuries. Due to his injuries, Pronger would assume the captaincy for the 2007-08 campaign. This year also saw one of Pronger’s most controversial actions when he stomped on Vancouver Canucks centre Ryan Kesler’s leg while he lay on the ice. He was suspended for eight games but returned for the last game of the year. The Ducks were looking to defend their Stanley Cup win from the last season, but were unable to get past the Dallas Stars and lost in the first round in six games.

The 2008-09 season saw Pronger play a full year and put up 48 points for his fifth consecutive 40-plus point season. This season also marked his 1000th game played in the NHL, a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The now 33-year-old was seeing a downwards trajectory of his offensive numbers but he was still averaging 26 minutes of TOI a game. After the season ended, the Ducks decided to trade him to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Lupul (the second time he’s been involved with a Pronger trade), Luca Sbisa, and a first round pick in the 2009 and 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Upon being acquired, the Flyers signed him to a seven-year contract that would have him playing until he was 42. The contract was under investigation at first for suspected salary cap circumvention with $29.4 million of a total $34.5 million to be earned within the first four years of the deal, but after a month-long inquiry the contract was deemed legal due to Pronger being over 35 at the time and because the cap hit could not be taken off the team’s payroll, unless he was placed on LTIR.

The Downfall

His tenure with the Flyers started off well, scoring 10 goals and 55 points in the 2009-10 season and helping the team reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1996-97 before ultimately falling to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. He had four goals and 18 points in 23 games in the postseason. After that it started going downhill for Pronger however. Many injuries limited him to just 50 games and a career low in points since his 1995-96 season with 25 points the following season. He also was named the captain of the Flyers following the trade of Mike Richards.

In 2011-12 he was clipped in the eye right at the start of the year, which sped up his career finally ending. After multiple hits resulting in concussion issues combined with the eye issues, Pronger only appeared in 13 games while posting 12 points. He was quickly shut down for the year after playing his last game on November 19th and since then he’s been battling post concussion syndrome and limited vision.

After not suiting up for three years, the Flyers traded his contract at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to the Arizona Coyotes with Nicklas Grossmann for Sam Gagner and a conditional draft pick. The move was purely a salary dump. Pronger will be an UFA at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season.


While Pronger had a notorious reputation for being a hot head on the ice and laying out some big and dirty hits, he had quite a successful career. It is not much of a surprise that he is being inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Playing for five teams spanning 18 seasons, he played 1167 games, scored 157 goals and 698 points. He won a James Norris Trophy, a Hart Memorial Trophy, and two Bud Light Plus-Minus Awards. He was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and was voted as an NHL All-Star six times. He played for Team Canada in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and the 2010 Vancouver Games, winning the Gold medal at both events. He won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and is a member of the Triple Gold Club, winning a Gold medal at the 1993 World Juniors Championships in Sweden  and also a Gold medal in the 1997 World Championships held in Finland. He played 34 senior international games, and also played the most games for Team Canada in the Olympics with 25 games. The next active player who could beat him is Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla (unlikely). He was named the CHL’s Best Defenseman in 1993.

Pronger may have been one of the dirtier players, having a total of eight suspensions in his career, to play hockey but the fact still remains that he was one of the best two-way defensemen in his era, behind Lidstrom, MacInnis, Chris Chelios, among others. He wasn’t the flashiest on the ice but he knew how to be physical and score points. Some may argue that his history of injuring others may not be worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame but the numbers and feats he’s accomplished, physicality aside, speak for themselves.

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