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Pronger grateful for those who helped him reach Hall

by Dan Rosen /

TORONTO -- Chris Pronger accepted his Hockey Hall of Fame plaque from a former teammate, fellow Hall of Fame defenseman and mentor.

Al MacInnis handed Pronger his plaque and then heard his name as one of the dozens of people Pronger thanked in his thorough yet quick speech that was as much about opportunity and belief as it was about honoring the people who helped get him to the Hall.

"I was given an opportunity in Dryden, Ontario, and from there was born a passion for the game," Pronger said. "I loved it and it was all I thought about growing up."

Here are three highlights from Pronger's speech:

1. From his childhood

Pronger thanked his high school hockey coach, and the scouts that found him, brought him to Stratford, Ont. to play Junior B hockey and eventually to Peterborough to play in the Ontario Hockey League.

"They believed in my abilities and provided me the tools to become a better player," he said in thanking his coaches from Junior B.

It all led to his dream coming true, when the Hartford Whalers, led by Brian Burke and Paul Holmgren, selected Pronger with the No. 2 pick in the 1993 NHL Draft.

Of Burke, Pronger said, "While we were both very stubborn, we made it work."

Of Holmgren, he said, "You always looked out for me. You definitely had my back Homer, and for that I'm very grateful."

He went on to thank the organizations he played for, the Whalers, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers. He specifically mentioned some coaches, including Mike Keenan and Joel Quenneville, who was in attendance.

"I was given an opportunity to excel and play with great players, but had the belief from ownership and management to play at the highest level," Pronger said of what he experienced through his entire career.

2. Teammates to thank

Pronger specifically mentioned joining the fraternity of his former teammates in the Hall of Fame. He played with fellow honored members MacInnis, Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr and Scott Niedermayer.

He made special mention of the late Brad McCrimmon, who was his roommate in Hartford.

But he also thanked some of his other teammates, the not so heralded, including Todd Marchant and former goalie Jamie McLennan, who was in attendance.

"As we all know the game of hockey is the ultimate team sport and without them I wouldn't have excelled the way I did," Pronger said. "You all left a lasting impression on me and made me a better player, but more important a better person."

3. Other special mentions

Pronger also gave special mentions to Flyers owner Ed Snider for being there for him and helping him get through the injury that ended his career.

He thanked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for allowing him to join the League's Player Safety Department, mentioning how they came into the League together in 1993 and were still "connected at the hip."

On his list of mentors was fellow St. Louis legendary athlete Dan Dierdorf, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"Thank you for showing what a Hall of Famer should act like," Pronger said.

In regards to his family, Pronger thanked his parents, said his wife, Lauren, is the best partner he could have asked for to go through his journey, and joked that he got his temper from his grandparents.

"I think it served me well," he said.

Pronger said to his brother, former NHL forward Sean Pronger, "I want you to know that I'm up here not just for me, but for us."


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