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Pronger named 18th captain in Flyers history

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com
Chris Pronger can be the jokester in the dressing room. He can be the sarcastic and sometimes a witty, larger-than-life personality in the dressing room. He can also be serious, occasionally stern, vocal and, most definitely, powerful.

He won't change as the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I think you have to be who you are and play the way you've always played," said Pronger, who was named the 18th captain in Flyers history Friday at the same time that Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen were named alternates. "Whether you have a letter on your jersey or not, if you're a leader, lead. Don't do anything outside of your comfort zone or outside of anything you've done to this point to be successful."

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Pronger's words come out of years of experience.

He shouldered the leadership responsibilities for six seasons (1997-2003) as a young captain for the St. Louis Blues. Pronger was 23 years old when Joel Quenneville, then Blues coach, gave him the C and the responsibilities that are attached to it.

Pronger also assumed the captaincy of the Anaheim Ducks entering the 2007-08 season. Both Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer, who captained Anaheim to the Stanley Cup the prior season, entered into short retirements, leaving Pronger to be the guy to lead the defending champions through their Cup-hangover season.

Pronger said his third go-round as a captain will be different than his first two because he's older (he'll be 37 on Oct. 10), more experienced, and many of the Flyers are still trying to get to know one another.

Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Max Talbot are all new to the organization this season.

"It's a pretty empty slate, a lot of new faces, a lot of guys that know one another but don't know one another well," Pronger said. "That's something (coach) Peter (Laviolette) touched on with me when we talked about this. We need to get the guys together, get that commraderie, chemistry and that flow going early in training camp and onto that first part of the season in order to get feeling good about ourselves so we can get on a bit of a roll and start to form that bond you need for those later months, when you really need to come together and sell out for one another."

Pronger would have been one of the guys to lead that charge with or without the C on his sweater.

"I don't think it changes the way I need to play or how I need to perform," he said.

However, Pronger wouldn't have accepted the captaincy if he wasn't sure he could play and perform at his customary elite level.

He was iffy back in late July, when Flyers GM Paul Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette first broached the topic with him.

"Whether you have a letter on your jersey or not, if you're a leader, lead. Don't do anything outside of your comfort zone or outside of anything you've done to this point to be successful." -- Chris Pronger
Holmgren had dealt former captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles and while it seemed like a no-brainer that Pronger would take over, the towering defenseman was still receiving treatment on his surgically repaired right hand and couldn't guarantee anything to the Flyers' brass.

"We had a conversation (in late July) and I said, 'Right now I have bigger fish to fry,' " Pronger said. "I needed to focus on getting myself healthy and back to being able to play the way you want me to play. If indeed you want me to be the captain, I have to play the way I can play for me to be effective."

Pronger is still rehabbing and likely won't take part in the Flyers first practice of training camp on Saturday, but he and the team feel he's on track to be ready for the season-opener on Oct. 6. Pronger has had four operations during the past calendar year, including surgery on his back, foot, hand and knee.

"Whether he plays a training camp game or not is not an issue for me," Holmgren told NHL.com. "He's certainly played enough of those in his 18-year career. He knows how to play the game. He also knows how to prepare and play for a regular 82-game season and playoffs. The aberration of last year, broken bones and stuff like that, how do you get away from that? It's not like he had hamstring or groin issues that kept him out of the lineup. He's the ultimate pro."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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