Chris Pronger is a chicken

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.

  • Bobby Robertson

    Does this really surprise anyone? Pronger is a big star in the states, he has the admiration of a major syndicate radio star in the states (Jim Rome). The league will do aything it can to keep Pronger in the game. Short of killing someone Pronger will NEVER garner a major suspension until he retires.

  • Al

    The NHL are waiting for one of Pronger's acts of cowardice to reult in permanent disabling of an opponent or maybe a death. Then Colin Campbell may have to yell at Pronger or maybe send a note home for his parent's. How can they be so two faced when one player with an identical act gets 30 games and a so-called star gets a total pass.

  • Al

    Oh by the way, calling Pronger a chicken is totally uncalled for…chickens are a perfectly respectable species. He would be more fittingly described as something that crawls on it's belly.

  • RobinB

    I get your point.
    While the initial video footage wasn't the best, I'm surprised Campbell gave Pronger the benefit of the doubt when he's not only a guy with multiple suspensions, he was busted for kicking once (Nieminen) already.

  • David Staples

    Two fights a year in the NHL is more fights than most guys will ever have against far tougher men. So while I think Pronger is a cheap shot artist and should have been suspended, I don't question his toughness. He is plenty tough.

  • RobinB

    David: I can't agree.
    Two fights a season is not more fights than most guys — physical guys who play an intimidating game using the stick and elbows etc — will ever have.

    Pronger plays very tough and buys a lot of room with a well-placed slash here or an elbow there, as his record of suspensions shows.

    My issue is that he doesn't back that up by dropping the gloves when an opponent decides he doesn't like it. He always relied on guys like Tony Twist and Rudy Poeschek to take care of that for him.

    If you compare a couple of other very physical defenceman — not an exact, exhaustive search but a thumbnail look — Pronger definitely picks his spots.
    Since 1994-95, for example, Derian Hatcher, a big, intimidating guy who was counted on to play a lot of minutes in his prime, has 35 fighting majors. Jason Smith has 59 fights. Ed Jovanovski has 42.

    But it's not just raw numbers. Look at the guys Pronger has fought, the guys I listed or at his complete fight log on HockeyFights.com. Outside of the three tough guys I listed — all of them, by the way, could be classed as light-heavyweights — he's dropped his gloves with an unquestionably disproportinate number of guys who are inexperienced with the gloves off and Europeans.

    That aside, I've asked players about Pronger. I'll take their word for it.

  • Wanye Gretz

    I love the battle between Staples and Brownlee. Good thing they aren't wearing skates or it would be stomp stomp stomp!

    Pronger is a tool, he may be universally resepected for his skills, but is one of the least liked players in the league from what I have been told by an NHL player

  • Al

    I don't think anyone questions Pronger's talent. Toughness is another matter and it resides between the ears and in the heart. What would be truly scary is putting Stan Jonathon in Prongers body. The only other issue is Pronger seldom faces his victims. He likes to approach in their rear-view mirror most of the time. Pronger tough? Try my wife every 4 weeks or so.

  • DJ Spin Cycle

    There are two things that bug me about the Pronger stomp: first is that Pronger's a cheap-shot artist, and two is the league.

    I won't get into detail on the first issue, as I think Brownlee said it well enough, but the fact that it took a public and media uproar for the league to take any action is ridiculous. If anything, star players like Pronger should be held to a much higher standard than anyone else.

    Wether guys like Pronger give a crap or not, they are ambassadors of the game. Players like CP are the guys the little kids look up to. I don't deny that hockey's a business, but it's also a game with rules, and if guys like Pronger are given carte blanche to break those rules, it cheapens the history of the game, and it cheapens the efforts and good sportsmanship of other players.

  • Gord Mark

    I've been hearing a bit about Brownlee going off on The Warrior.

    Anyone willing to transcribe? Is there an audio link? Failing the former or latter, is someone willing to post the highlights?:)