This summer was so long, it eventually started to feel like “Groundhog Day.” It’s good to get some rest and have a long layoff from a health perspective. But 4 1/2 months is a long time to hang out and work out every day. I started to feel it around August. You can only ride the bike and lift so many times. You just want to get back out there and get things started.
I never worry too much about the captain thing. It’s not really in my hands. One way or another, whether I have a “C” or an “A” or nothing on my jersey, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t change the way I prepare or the way I’m going to be in the locker room. There are guys who players look at to be one of the voices in the room. I’ve had a lot of trials and tribulations and I can talk to younger players about experiences and different situations. It’s always good to have guys on the team like that, who can calm a situation like Scotty does, or get everybody jacked up and ready to roll.
I get criticized for my style of play and I’ve certainly gotten some suspensions, but this is the way I’ve played for 25 years, since I was a kid. I play with emotion and passion and sometimes that gets the better of me. There are some suspensions I have received I do not agree with and there are others that I do.
Every night I go into a game I know there is a large X on my back. As I see it, I’m protecting myself and sometimes I go over the line. I play hard for my team, my teammates, my family and all the people who paid their hard-earned money to be entertained. I am a competitor and I want to win. But sometimes the line gets blurry.
Sometimes being 6-6 can actually be difficult. When I hit a shorter guy, it always looks like it’s my elbow to his head. Or if you have a 5-foot-7 guy coming down on you and trying to go around you, he has that lower center of gravity. But the positives far outweigh the negatives.
I was always the tallest kid in class. I never had a huge growth spurt, but I just kind of kept ticking away two or three inches a year. But I never played basketball. I played volleyball until I was 15 and moved away from home for hockey. They wouldn’t let me play volleyball after that.
It’s still fun coming to the rink for me. It’s kind of your outlet. You get used to doing something every day of your life. You get used to a regimen of getting up at a certain time, coming to the rink, preparing for practice, hanging out with the guys in the locker room and getting ready to go skate. That’s what you sit around all summer thinking about – Man, I’ve got to get back in that locker room. You want to get back to doing battle with your teammates. That’s something you really miss.
The travel can be tough, especially in the Western Conference, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. There are so many great stories that come from being tired and exhausted with your teammates, coming off a plane at 3 a.m. knowing you have to do battle that night, and you know each and every one of you will answer the bell for the game. That is what makes us bond and form that chemistry that we speak so highly of.
For me there is no greater thrill in a hockey game than coming around the back of the net and throwing a long bomb to send a guy on a breakaway. You’ve got a little window to make a play and you rip a pass through the middle and it’s right on the guy’s tape and, boom, he’s off. For me there is nothing like that.
My job is to distribute the puck. I’m not Scotty. I’m not going to skate through the other team. I have to pass it up the ice.
I started my website (ChrisPronger.com) for a few reasons. It’s an avenue for me to do some charitable stuff. There’s also a lot of bad publicity about me out there and I wanted to kind of use the website as an avenue to get ahold of all that and keep it in-house. It’s an outlet to stay involved with the fans. I’ve got my brother [former NHLer Sean] writing a blog on there and other people doing stuff. It’s interesting to see the way things have taken on a life of their own.
I normally don’t read anything in the paper about me or the team. I read the business section and I read USA Today. From Day 1 of my career, I’ve never been a guy who read the sports pages a lot. Good or bad, I don’t need anybody patting me on the back and I don’t need anybody ripping me. I know if I had a good game or not. I just try to worry about myself and about what I need to do to help my team win. If somebody likes the way or doesn’t like the way I play is immaterial. As long as my teammates and coaches like what I’m doing, I’m fine.
This season is do-or-die for a lot of guys on this team. It’s not going to be the same team next year with all the free agents we have after this season. We have a good core group of players, but a lot of guys are in the last year of their deals and they’ve either got to go out and earn a new contract here or earn one somewhere else. And by doing that, we need to win. Winning is going to solve a lot of problems. It’s a chance for us to rebound from last year and regain that glory we found a couple of years ago. The task at hand is to win the Stanley Cup. Nothing else matters.