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Stanley Cup 125th Anniversary

Chris Pronger made most of second chance

Hall of Fame defenseman recalls winning Stanley Cup year after losing in Final

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

Editor's note: The Stanley Cup turns 125 years old on March 18. To celebrate the historic anniversary, talked to the players and coaches who dedicated their lives to winning the Stanley Cup, some succeeding, some failing, but all with incredible stories about their quest for hockey's ultimate prize.

Growing up in Dryden, Ontario, a town on a lake four hours due east of Winnipeg, Chris Pronger was a typical Canadian kid. He played hockey. He would pretend it was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final and he was scoring the winning goal in overtime.

"That's what we did," he said. "You have this vision and dream of being able to win the Cup and carry it around."

The Hartford Whalers took Pronger No. 2 in the 1993 NHL Draft. He played two seasons for the Whalers and then nine for the St. Louis Blues, winning the Hart Trophy as most valuable player and the Norris Trophy as best defenseman but not the Cup.

[Related: Chris Pronger: 100 Greaters Players]

Video: Chris Pronger was Hart Trophy-winning defenseman

Through 88 playoff games, more than the equivalent of a regular season, the closest he came was the Western Conference Final in 2001. The Blues won one game in the series against the Colorado Avalanche.

Then he played for the Edmonton Oilers in 2005-06, and they made a run as a No. 8 seed -- first round, second round, conference final, Final, finally. They got to Game 7 of the Final against the Carolina Hurricanes, and … 

They lost 3-1.

"You work so hard to get there, and you talk to guys that get there and lose and never get back," Pronger said. "It's not always set in stone and cut and dried that, 'Well, we'll get back there. We'll win it next time.' "

He laughed.

"Not necessarily," he said. "You might not have that opportunity."

But Pronger did. He played for the Anaheim Ducks in 2006-07, and not only did he return to the Final, he won it. The Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators in five games.

[Related: Ducks honor 2007 Stanley Cup team]

One hundred twenty-eight playoff games, and he was transported back to Dryden, Ontario.

"For me, the year before losing in Game 7, to get right back on the horse and be able to close the deal the next year in Anaheim was pretty special," Pronger said. "It was a sense of relief that you're finally able to accomplish your lifelong goal. You know your name's going to go on there. To be part of history and a part of the great names that are on there and the great teams that are on there … it was a sense of relief yet a euphoric moment where you're like, 'Finally.' "

Pronger played 45 more playoff games and made the Final once more, with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, but the Flyers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. In a Hall of Fame career of 18 seasons and 173 playoff games, the 2007 championship was his one and only.

Did the reality match the dream?

"Oh," he said, "absolutely."

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