Congratulations, Chris Pronger. One of the best St. Louis Blues defenseman to ever grace the blue line graduated into the Hall of Fame this evening, aka the "I'm White Hot Shit and You are Not" building of legendary NHL players. He deserves it and should have finished up his years in St. Louis.
Yes, I wanted Pronger to stay. When Blues ownership couldn't pony up the dollars to keep him after the 2003-04 season, I wasn't a happy guy. Pronger was a true artist on the ice. I've never seen a defenseman make a better outlet pass than Pronger. It was like he had a GPS attached to his stick and knew that it would smack the tape of a Blues forward lunging forward across mid-ice. He was that good.
Together with Big Al Maclinnis at the blue line, the NHL didn't have a better duo assaulting defenses and making goaltenders decide if they were getting the 12 gauge blast(Pronger) or the 50 caliber laser(Mac). It was beautiful. When the 2015-16 crew fucks up another power play, just lean back in your chair, take a good swig of your favored lager, and imagine Pronger and Mac on the blue line. It's like dreamy hockey mind porn. It won't last but it's sweet.
Sure, the hockey trading card gangsters will say he never scored enough. Pronger had 14 goals one season and that was his high. He put up 62 points during another season. This is where narrow mindedness gets you killed. When Pronger was on the ice, good things happened. He was a +47 in 1997-98 and +52 in 1999-00. He didn't let wingmen sit in front of his net either. He was six foot six but seemed like a seven foot wall behind someone ballsy enough to post up.
He was taken to school hard by Owen Nolan in that Sharks playoff series and never turned in a high quality playoff series with the Blues(that came later with the Oilers, Ducks and Flyers) but Pronger was a player you don't let go and the Blues did. He was bound to get better and better with age and the Blues couldn't retain him. It felt like a shot to the chest.
Blues history is full of heartbreak and it includes too many player losses. There's Curtis Joseph and Brendan Shanahan getting traded(Fuck you Mike Keenan). There's Brett Hull leaving(Fuck you, Joel Q). And then there is Chris Pronger not coming back. The Blues were an exciting case of blue balls, but a lot of great players didn't reach the top of the world in The Lou. That makes celebrating Chris Pronger so bittersweet. He won a Cup after he left STL. FUBAR.
Still, there are lots of sweet memories with Prongs, including the year where he tried to win it all. In 2000, Pronger was the first defenseman since Bobby Orr in 1972 to win the Hart Trophy in addition to winning the Norris Trophy. All in one season. The Hart, Norris, and All Star honors. Respect.
I met Chris Pronger at a Cardinals game once. The man was freakishly tall, thin and looked like he was channeling Larry Bird with a white pair of shorts on a hot summer night at old Busch. I told him I appreciated how great he was for the local Note, and he responded with "Thanks. I try my best." Damn right you did Chris. Too bad you couldn't have stuck around.
When it comes to Chris Pronger, though, the sweet isn't as sweet without the bitter.