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Chris Pronger reflects on Ducks championship 10 years later

Former NHL defenseman helped deliver Stanley Cup to California-based team for first time

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The reminders start to hit Chris Pronger even before the official date comes along.

June 6, 2007.

That's when Pronger and his Anaheim Ducks teammates won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 at Honda Center. The Ducks won the best-of-7 series 4-1 and became the first California team to win the Cup.

"Once you get to the Final, you see how far the two teams have come and the different adversity they've had to face to get there," Pronger said. "It certainly brings back great memories of '07.

"It's nice to get the monkey off your back and finally win. Having been there the year before (with the Edmonton Oilers), it was nice to get a kick at it again and lock it down. It's a rush of emotions and you're all over the map."

The Ducks had riches on defense; their top pair was Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, each a Norris Trophy winner and later inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Three members of the Ducks' Stanley Cup championship team -- Pronger, Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne -- were among the 100 Greatest NHL Players, announced in January in Los Angeles.

Pronger said the adversity they faced during the regular season in 2006-07 help them handle obstacles when the stakes were higher during the playoffs.

"That [Western Conference Final] series against Detroit, we didn't play our best Game 5, but we found a way to win. [Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere] stood on his head, and Teemu scored a clutch goal to give us the overtime victory.

"Lo and behold, we're going home to win a Game 6 and lock up that series and go to the Final."

Pronger was suspended twice during the playoffs, including one game in the Final for a hit on Senators forward Dean McAmmond, and the Ducks had to adjust.

"We had guys that understood how we needed to play," Pronger said. "It was always a seamless transition to the next guy. Guys were just stepping up and filling roles. Much like you see with these two teams in the Final; the Predators have had a number of guys go down, and the Penguins have had a number of guys go down all season long."

There there's Pittsburgh Penguins forward Chris Kunitz, who, at 37, is going for another championship. He won the Stanley Cup for the first time with Pronger and the Ducks.

Video: Pronger talks about winning the Cup with Anaheim

The current opposition for Kunitz is Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher, who played for the Senators in 2007. The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Pronger, who is five years older than Kunitz, chuckled at how things have come full circle.

"It's very rewarding to see [Kunitz] still going and looking for his fourth Cup," Pronger said. "It's exciting to see that. You see a guy like Mike Fisher, who hasn't been back there in 10 years.

"You look at (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry and their second year as professionals, and they win the Stanley Cup. You talk to people and they think it's easy. Then you talk to them, and they still haven't gotten back. It's not as simple as being a good player and thinking you're going to get there every year. A lot of things have to come into play."

There is another connection to the Stanley Cup Final for Pronger -- Predators coach Peter Laviolette. He played for Laviolette with the Philadelphia Flyers when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Final. Pronger was also on the losing side against Laviolette when the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Oilers in the 2006 Final.

His success through the years speaks to his coaching ability and his systems, Pronger said.

"He likes to play an up-tempo game, cycle the puck and control the puck and force teams to play defense," Pronger said. "He plays to the strengths of his team. They are a fast team.

"Everybody talks about how fast Pittsburgh is. You could argue that Nashville is faster. You look at the makeup of that team, and they've got some studs in the back end. (Mattias) Ekholm is having a great year. (Roman) Josi, (Ryan) Ellis. One might argue (P.K.) Subban is the fourth-best defenseman on the team. That's how well that group is playing."

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