Monday, June 29, 2015

Pronger elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

Former Blues defenseman gets in on first 
ballot; played nine of 18 seasons in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Pronger's NHL career blossomed in St. Louis. And although his terrific career that included one Stanley Cup in 2007 and spanned 18 seasons, one of the greatest defensemen in the modern generation, saw his NHL career take off here.

His career cut short because of concussion issues, Pronger reached the pinnacle of the hockey world when he was part of the 2015 class inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, announced on Monday afternoon.

Pronger, the No. 2 pick of the 1993 NHL Draft who spent nine seasons in a Blues uniform after being acquired from the Hartford Whalers for Brendan Shanahan in 1995, was the NHL MVP and Norris Trophy winner in 2000 when he put up 62 points in 79 games.
Chris Pronger

Pronger was selected in his first year of eligibility after last playing for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. He still is technically an active player who has a contract signed through 2017. 

Pronger, 40, was traded to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday at the NHL Draft that will help the Coyotes reach the salary cap floor. Pronger carries a $4.9 million cap hit for the next two seasons and can't technically retire as a player after signing a seven-year contract with the Flyers in 2010.

However, a change in rules last year allows players who are still under contract but haven't played for a minimum of three years be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

In nine seasons with the Blues, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Pronger played in 598 regular season games and had 356 points (272 assists).

Pronger, who put up 698 points (572 assists) in 1,167 regular season games, won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks. He was traded from the Blues to the Edmonton Oilers coming out of the 2005 lockout in one of the, if not the, worst trades in franchise history.

Bill Laurie, the Blues' owner at the time, was in the process of selling the team and felt it would be easier to sell the team with Pronger's contract off the books. Pronger was to be an unrestricted free agent after making $9.5 million in the last year of his contract with the Blues. And so to make him attactive to prospective buyers, the Blues traded Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers for defensemen Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch. 

The Blues would go on to have the NHL's worst record in 2005-06 and miss the playoffs in five of the next six seasons. Brewer was serviceable at best and played five-plus seasons in St. Louis and is currently on he Toronto Maple Leafs roster; Woywitka played in parts of four seasons and two stints with the Blues  but is playing in the Deutsche Eishockey League with the Augsburg Panthers and Lynch never saw a game with the Blues. He's currently also playing in Germany with Salzberg EC. 

Meanwhile, Pronger would help the Oilers reach the Stanley Cup Final in his first season in Edmonton, but the Oilers lost to the Edmonton Oilers in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes.

After the season, Pronger was traded to the Ducks. Reports abounded that his wife Lauren, who is from St. Louis, was not happy living in Edmonton, and thus forced the Oilers' hand and Pronger asked for a trade.

He won the Stanley Cup in his first season with the Ducks with former Blue Andy McDonald and played three seasons with the Ducks before being dealt to the Flyers for Joffrey Lupul, defenceman Luca Sbisa, two first round draft picks and a conditional third round draft pick. 

Pronger helped the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 but he has not played since 2011 when he played 13 games. 

Pronger led the NHL with a plus-52 the season he won the Hart and Norris and helped the Blues claim he Presidents' Trophy and teamed with Al MacInnis as arguably one of the best defensive pairings.

He was named captain of the Blues his third season with the Blues when he was 23. 

Pronger joined Brett Hull as the only Blues to win the MVP. He and MacInnis are the only Blues to win the Norris. A four-time all-star in St. Louis (five overall), Pronger was a four-time member of Canada in the Winter Olympics and won the gold medal twice (2002 and 2010).

Another former Blue, Phil Housley, also was part of the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame Class. Housley, an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators, played 26 games with the Blues in the 1993-94 season and was traded to the Calgary Flames for MacInnis.

Along with Pronger and Housley, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov and U.S. Olympic women's player Angela Ruggiero. Hockey Hall of Fame chairman Bill Hay and Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. were elected in the Builder category.

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