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Pronger recalls scary incident in 1998 playoffs

by Tim Wharnsby

TORONTO -- Dmitri Mironov and Chris Pronger never have discussed the frightening incident in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 17 years ago when a slap shot by Mironov hit Pronger near his heart.

Mironov was playing for the defending Stanley Cup-champion Detroit Red Wings on May 11, 1998. Pronger anchored the St. Louis Blues' blue line. Pronger jostled with Detroit forward Martin Lapointe in front of the Blues' goal, then glided out to block Mironov's shot.

The puck slammed off Pronger's chest, just left of his heart. He fell down, covered up the puck and got up. Pronger took two strides and collapsed. He was unconscious for about 20 seconds.

Pronger spent the night in Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, but was back in action four days later.

It wasn't lost on Pronger and others on Sunday that Mironov was playing in the Legends Classic game at the Air Canada Centre as part of the Hockey Hall of Fame weekend with so many others from that Red Wings-Blues game 17 years ago.

Pronger's former Blues teammate Pierre Turgeon also participated in the game, as did former Red Wings Igor Larionov, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper and Larry Murphy.

"I was just watching that whole segment for the first time about three weeks ago," said Pronger, who along with Fedorov, Lidstrom, Phil Housley and Angela Ruggiero as well as builders Bill Hay and Peter Karmanos Jr., will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.

"My eyes roll back in my head and then I went down. At the time, your young and you don't take it that serious. But as time goes on, you read about these types of incidents and that kids die from it. I was lucky."

The blow from the puck caused Pronger's heart to skip a beat. He suffered no ill effects from Mironov's shot and went on to a Hall of Fame career. Mironov is thankful for that.

"It was a scary situation," the Russian defenseman said. "It was an accident. I was scared. I was thinking the worst when he went down. I was happy to see him back on the ice a few days later."

The Red Wings went on to win the second-round series and completed a successful defense of their Stanley Cup championship two rounds later.

"It was a scary, scary moment for sure," said Draper, who battled Pronger throughout his career. They also were teammates on the 2006 Canadian Olympic team and Canada's 2004 World Cup team; Pronger was part of that team but did not play because of an injury.

The Red Wings got the best of Pronger and the Blues in 1998. But nine years later, it was Pronger and his new team, the Anaheim Ducks, who beat Detroit in the Western Conference Final and went on to win the Stanley Cup in five games against the Ottawa Senators.

"We felt that [2007 West Final] series could have gone either way, even though it went six games," Draper said. "Chris had an impactful series.

"He had an edge. He competed. He was a physical presence. There were so many ways he could impact a game and you had to be aware of when he was on the ice."

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