Jim Pronger, the father of former Blue Chris Pronger, wrote a letter for stlouisblues.com detailing how proud he is of his son - not only for his Hall of Fame hockey career but also for the man he has become.
Pronger's No. 44 will be retired by the St. Louis Blues prior to the Jan. 17 game against the Nashville Predators. Jim will be in attendance for the pregame ceremony, which will begin at 6 p.m. and will be available on Bally Sports Midwest and 101 ESPN. Learn more by visiting stlouisblues.com/pronger.
While Chris was growing up, we noticed he had a competitive edge about him that seemed to set him apart from the other kids.
When he was young, he played baseball, and he could turn a typical single into a home run because he seemed to exhibit so much more skill than other kids his age. Not many people know this, but we actually considered relocating so he could play competitively and have a chance to advance in baseball.
But then Chris found hockey.
He was always playing against kids that were two years older than him, and just like baseball and everything else he did, his skill - in this case, his skating and his hockey IQ - was very advanced for his age.
He played high school hockey in Grade 9 and 10 with kids that were three and four years older than he was, and both years, his team advanced to the provincial championships.
After Grade 10, he left home at 15 years old to play junior hockey in Statford, Ontario. After a few games, he became acclimated and played like a long-time veteran. In February of that season, he played for Ontario in the Canada games and won the tournament. Chris was a big part of the team's success that year.
Next it was Team Canada for the Phoenix Cup in Japan, and I remember he was selected to the all-tournament team alongside Paul Kariya. What an honour!
At that point, we knew Chris had a chance to really excel in hockey, and he went to Peterborough to play for the Petes. He put together an amazing junior career and reached the Memorial Cup in his second year. He was also named Defenceman of the Year for the Canadian Hockey League that season and won a gold medal playing for Canada at the World Championships.
All of these accomplishments in minor and junior hockey made us very proud. We come from a small town in Northwestern Ontario where very few kids are able to reach these heights. I think it was Chris' dedication, intensity and smarts that enabled him to get there.
After that, we watched Chris get to the big leagues, and seeing him develop into an elite NHL defenceman was a surreal experience for my wife and I.
We watched as many games as we could, and even traveled to see them when possible. It was very exciting for us to follow Chris' career, and it was amazing how he always seemed to know what the team needed from him to win.
We watched him in All-Star games, we watched him win the Hart and Norris Trophy with the Blues, we saw him lift the Stanley Cup in Anaheim and we even got to see him give a speech at his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
But my son wasn't only an elite hockey player. We've watched him grow as a person, become a husband, become a father and a better son than we ever could have dreamed of.
We have so many people to thank for molding him into the person we have today, and we definitely owe his wife, Lauren, a big thank you for helping to finish our job as parents. We have loved watching him become a dad to our grandkids, and we adore seeing how much he loves his wife and children.
Chris' fundraising activities, both in St. Louis and around the country, have demonstrated the generosity he's always had and his desire to give back to his community.
My son became a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person. And now we get to see his #44 go into the rafters in St. Louis on Monday.
I'll be there. I wouldn't miss that for the world.
I'll be the proud dad standing right beside him.