Short of spitting in the face of an opponent, is there any action more uncalled for and flat-out cowardly as kicking another player with your skate? I don’t think so. In the case of Anaheim Ducks defenceman Chris Pronger, then, the crime (even if the NHL has seen fit not to punish the kick he took at Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler Wednesday) fits the perpetrator. For all of his unquestionable talent — Pronger has won a Norris Trophy, a Hart Trophy and a Stanley Cup—he’s a documented cheap-shot artist and a coward who plays tough with his elbows, his stick and, sometimes, his skates, but who seldom drops the gloves. The often-suspended Pronger is going to skate without sanction after taking a kick at Kesler. That’s mind-boggling, considering Pronger’s already been suspended once in his career for kicking an opponent—it happened March 14, 2004 when he got a one-game suspension for taking the blade to Ville Nieminen of the Calgary Flames. Some of Pronger’s other suspensions include:
- 1995: The league suspended Pronger for four games after he hit Washington forward Pat Peake in the throat with a stick during a Oct. 29 game
- 1998: Pronger was suspended for four games for slashing Phoenix’s Jeremy Roenick on Dec. 17, 1998.
- 2007: Pronger was suspended one game for his blow to the head of Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Despite all his dirty deeds, Pronger seldom answers the bell with the gloves off—since 1994-95 he’s had just 20 fights, or an average of two per season. I know, I know. Pronger’s a Norris Trophy winner. He’s a big-money, 27-minute-a-night all-star who need not soil his hands trading blows with fourth-liners and sluggers who play seven minutes a night. Fair enough, on the face of it. But it’s interesting to note who Pronger has thrown down with. Take a look at that and there’s not much doubt he picks his spots—he’ll doff the leather if there’s an easy mark in front of him. Tough guys on Pronger’s resume include Matthew Barnaby, Martin Lapointe and Ian Laperriere. After that, it gets thin. Pronger’s also thrown punches with noted pugilist Michal Handzus, who has three career fights. He’s tossed ’em with Fredrik Modin, who has two career fighting majors. The rest of Pronger’s Murderer’s Row includes Daniel Cleary, Mike Stapleton and Michael Grosek. Who’s next, Jarret Stoll and Marty Reasoner? —Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.