A condensed version of Dan Patrick's interview with St. Louis Blues defenseman Chris Pronger appears in the March 19 edition of ESPN The Magazine.
Dan Patrick: I don't play hockey, but don't they tell you early on that you aren't supposed to use your arm to block shots?
|Blues captain Chris Pronger was the NHL's MVP last season.|
Chris Pronger: It just got in the way, but this one isn't my fault. I mean, when I called for the puck, a slap shot probably wasn't the best way to get it to me.
DP: You know this injury is putting your engagement in jeopardy. Your fiancée is going to have to tend to your every need. She's going to have to bathe you and dress you ...
CP: Yeah, it's going to be tough getting my pants on. Maybe I'll wear sweats -- or as we call them on our team, my Slovakian Tuxedo.
DP: You're a lucky man.
DP: How many teeth do you have, last count?
CP: Real teeth? Oh my god. How many teeth are you supposed to have?
DP: I think 32.
CP: Oh, well, then 29.
DP: Who in the NHL needs a new dentist?
CP: A lot of guys around the league might say I need a dentist.
DP: But you've only lost three teeth. I'm talking about somebody who's lost quite a few.
CP: Somebody who's missing a lot of teeth up front? A lot of guys are missing teeth and don't get them fixed until they're done. I think that's pretty much the hockey trademark ... guys figure, well, we're going to lose our teeth anyway, so we'll get them fixed when we're done.
DP: How would you rate Theo Fleury in the Chiclets department?
CP: Having that tooth missing right up front is not very attractive.
DP: Isn't that a show of manhood?
CP: True, it's a look. Chicks dig that. You get sympathy from that. They really want to console you. Of course, I have a fiancée now, so ...
DP: Do you call guys by their first names on the ice? Like do you call out, "Hey, Jaromir"?
CP: No. I try not to call anyone by their first name out there. I call Jagr puffnuts.
CP: Or knucklehead, because more often than not, he's whining to the ref when I'm out there. So I'm like, "Play the game, puffnuts."
DP: What's up with Trevor Kidd's beard?
CP: You mean the Wizard? That's a bad beard.
DP: Hockey players don't look good with a beard.
CP: Not that kind of beard. When you have just a beard and no moustache, it's not good. But when I do grow my peach fuzz, the girls seem to swarm a lot more.
DP: I need your favorite hockey name.
CP: Lars Lindgren.
DP: Sounds European, sounds soft.
CP: Yeah. OK, then Tie Domi.
DP: Is he a guy you're afraid of?
CP: Well, it isn't fighting most guys are afraid of, it's losing.
DP: That's deep.
CP: Yeah. I just thought of another name -- Cujo. It's not Curtis Joseph anymore. Everybody in the world calls him Cujo. I mean, he signs everything Cujo.
DP: One day he's going to be The Artist Formerly Known as Cujo. He'll be just a symbol.
CP: He'll be pi.
DP: You are deep.
DP: Have you ever daydreamed in the penalty box?
DP: What about? Last time you were in the penalty box and your mind wasn't on the game, what were you thinking about?
CP: Oh, man. I can't even remember. It was awhile ago, though. I was daydreaming, all of a sudden, the guy's like, "Your time's up, you can get out." And I'm like, "Oh." And then I tried to jump out real fast and just about fell, and it wasn't a pretty sight.
DP: Do you call it the penalty box?
CP: The sin bin, the penalty box, that place where you go hide for two minutes or five minutes or 10 minutes.
DP: Does it make you go back to your childhood days when mom sent you into the corner or sent you into your room? Is that how you feel?
CP: Sometimes. Sometimes, I actually feel good when I get a penalty, because I get to rest for two minutes -- hopefully just two minutes.
DP: Is Gary Bettman tall enough to run a professional league?
CP: I don't know. How tall are the rest of the guys? I mean, how tall is David Stern?
DP: He's not very tall. Bud Selig's probably around six feet. But I wondered if there's a height requirement.
CP: I don't know that, either. That would be an interesting subject to look up. I don't know if there should be a height requirement or not. I think maybe there should be one in basketball. You're dealing with a lot of tall people.
DP: What did Mario Lemieux's return do to the Penguins' chances of winning at all?
CP: I think the odds-makers in Vegas got a little upset.
DP: Why is that?
CP: Well, I mean, they had their odds for the Penguins to win. And then everybody, if they were betting on the Penguins -- you know, if they do win it, then they're going to make a little bit more money.
DP: Does this mean that the Penguins could win it all this year?
CP: I think it gives them a much better chance. I don't know if I would pick them to win. I think I like our chances.
DP: OK, aside from you being the --
CP: Aside from us being the politically correct --
CP: In that division, it would be very tough for them to win with the way they play.
DP: So even Lemieux doesn't ensure that they're going to be a favorite?
CP: A favorite? Yeah, they may be a favorite, but I don't think they'd win. Just with the way New Jersey plays and the way some of those other teams play out there, the would just blanket them and frustrate them.
DP: Is there another retired NHL player who you would like to see come back?
CP: I would like to see Mike Bossy come back.
DP: Wow, I didn't expect Mike Bossy.
CP: Mike Bossy. He's been done for awhile, but I would like to see him come back.
DP: Why is that?
CP: Because I like him. I liked him, he was my favorite player growing up.
DP: Because he was a scorer, because he was a sniper?
CP: Because he was a sniper. He wasn't just a scorer. I went and saw him play a couple times up in Winnipeg.
DP: Well, what's the difference between being a scorer and a sniper?
CP: Some guys can score, and some guys -- like, just, he could shoot the puck from anywhere and have a legitimate chance to score with his shot.
DP: Give me an NHL rule that you want to get rid of.
CP: No touch-up icing.
DP: And why does it bother you?
CP: Well, how many times a game do you see the other team beat you down there for the icing? Maybe once? ... It would negate a lot of injuries, I think.
DP: What else you got. That's not a very sexy one to get rid of.
CP: OK. You know what they need to get rid of is that neck protector that goalies wear. That little plastic shield.
DP: That protects their throat?
DP: What's wrong with that?
CP: It gets in the way an awful lot.
DP: It gets in the way of what? You putting a puck right through their gullet?
CP: Well, when they break and they fall all over the place, they make that funny noise out on the ice.
DP: Yeah, but didn't we have the goalie who was a Pez dispenser a couple years ago because he got stabbed in the throat?
CP: Well, that was just a freak incident. Those are going to happen.
DP: Yeah, and he nearly died.
CP: That would have happened with or without that neck guard.
DP: He was bleeding all over the ice.
CP: Yeah, but those freak incidents are going to happen.
DP: Anything freak ever happen to you?
CP: Oh, besides the fact that I had a heart attack?
DP: Yeah, aside from the fact you had a heart attack.
CP: Besides that one, not really. Other than having the heart attack, that was pretty much it.
DP: Explain that, though. Were you in serious trouble?
CP: No. Actually, I didn't even know I was on the ground. I got hit with the puck and kind of smothered it, and ... then I was sitting there going, OK, kind of stung a little bit, let's just get to the bench. Next thing you know, I wake up and I'm looking up at the trainer going, "Oh, this is neat. Had a nice little nap here."
DP: And they said you had a heart attack?
CP: Well, my heart stopped for, like, a second or two ... I technically had a heart attack from what the doctors say, but I don't think I did.
DP: You started out as a Whaler.
CP: I did, yes.
DP: Yeah, thanks for the memories.
CP: Yeah [laughs].
DP: Did you ever pay a visit to Bristol University?
DP: You never came to ESPN in all those days in Hartford?
CP: I was never invited.
DP: Hey, we have people who show up here to work who aren't invited.
CP: At the gym where I worked out during the lockout year, I think it was fairly close to Bristol University. There were a lot of ESPN folks working out there.
DP: Anybody that I know?
CP: Robin Roberts. I don't know if you know her.
DP: Yeah, I know her. Have met her.
CP: You met her once?
DP: Yeah, I met her once. Was Chris Berman working out?
CP: What do you think?
DP: Oh, probably not.
CP: Probably not, huh?
DP: No, probably not.
DP: Your favorite memory as a Whaler.
CP: Probably the only time I got cheered, I got cheered the opening game of my inaugural season. After that, it was a bumpy ride down the road.
DP: I was there for the final game.
CP: I don't think I got too many cheers.
DP: Why? What was wrong?
CP: I don't know.
DP: I think the fans thought you were overrated. Is that what it was?
CP: Well, I think they thought I was going to be Mario Lemieux. ... The way I was built up, I think they thought I was going to be the 100-point guy doing everything.
DP: Because I know that that's why I booed you.
CP: Well, you're only human. You got to go with the rest of the crowd.
DP: Did you watch "Mystery, Alaska"?
CP: I saw that picture, yes.
DP: And what would you think if I asked you to review that? You know, out of five pucks, how many pucks would you give it?
CP: Five pucks on what -- there's got to be three different scales. There's the "I just wasted two hours of my life."
DP: Well, that can be part of your review. But that would probably tell me how many pucks you would give it. Now, you can give it an empty net if you want to.
CP: On entertainment value, if you're into hockey, if you like hockey, it's probably a two.
DP: So it wasn't realistic?
CP: Realistically, come on. You fly an NHL team in and -- I just can't see it happening.
DP: But there's some bad teams you could fly in ... give me a bad team to fly in there.
CP: Well, if you flew the Tampa Bay Lightning in there, for instance. They would probably -- I mean, they have some pretty skilled guys now. They go to Mystery, Alaska, Tampa could probably kill them.
DP: Mystery, Alaska could? Oh, Tampa could win now.
DP: Was Russell Crowe convincing as a hockey player?
CP: I'm going to have to say that was one of his less-than-to-be-desired parts.
DP: What did you think of Barry Melrose's acting in "Mystery, Alaska"?
CP: Was he in "Mystery, Alaska"? [laughs] Was he in that?
DP: He told us he was.
CP: Which guy was he?
DP: I'm not sure, either. I did watch it, though.
CP: You saw it? What was your rating on him?
DP: I would give it maybe one-and-a-half pucks out of five. ... But you can't have a hockey film and have it rank up there with "Slap Shot."
CP: Yeah, I know, it's tough. Unless you remake "Slap Shot" and do, like, "Slap Shot II," then anybody who likes hockey movies is always going to compare it to something that was a five-puck.
DP: Who's the best fisherman in the NHL?
CP: Ooh, that's a tough one. We have a couple guys on our team who really like to fish. I mean, I know there's a lot of guys around the league who enjoy fishing ... I don't know, because I don't know all the guys who fish.
DP: Do you fish?
CP: I fish. I wouldn't say I'm the best fisherman in the league, but I do fish.
DP: Do you have a fish story, favorite one?
CP: I do have a favorite fish story. I went fishing with my dad and some family friends back home, and we did the old Abbott and Costello where I'm reeling in the fish, and the other guy's reeling -- every time I pull, his rod goes down, he pulls, my rod goes down. We both hooked the same fish. Finally I get it up, and I look, and there's another hook in his mouth, and the other guy over there is still reeling on his rod. And I'm like, "Hey, enough. We both got the same one."
DP: Who's a bigger star in St. Louis: Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner or Mark McGwire?
CP: Mark McGwire.
DP: By far?
CP: I think so. I mean, Marshall Faulk, I think, is getting up there now, and obviously Kurt Warner, but I think Mark McGwire is -- baseball seems to be the largest sport here. But football's getting there.
DP: How far did you go in school? What education do you have?
CP: I got a couple of college courses.
DP: Did you graduate from high school?
CP: Yeah ... I went to university when I played junior.
CP: My second year junior, I went to university.
DP: So you're considered intelligent for the NHL?
CP: Well, I didn't finish college. There's a lot of college graduates out there.
DP: If you win the Hobey Baker award, do you also have to graduate from college?
DP: Oh, you can just win the award?
CP: Yeah, graduation is not usually a prerequisite. If you're winning a Hobey Baker, you're probably not at school to go to school.
DP: What about the Con Smythe -- just call it the MVP. See, you guys are all screwed up. That's why Americans can't grab hold of this game.
CP: Because they don't know who Con Smythe is?
DP: Yeah. I don't know who Con Smythe is.
CP: Well, neither do I, but there used to be the Smythe division.
DP: I know, but once again, we don't follow the game that closely...
CP: Well, what do you call the Hart Trophy, then?
DP: I don't know, what do you want to call it?
CP: Well, that's an MVP trophy, too.
DP: Well then, call it the MVP Trophy I, and then Con Smythe is --
CP: MVP Part I and Part II?
DP: Do you socialize with goalies?
CP: Well, yeah, my best friend in the league is a goaltender -- but I will have to admit that I have yet to meet a normal goalie.
DP: Who would be the goalie closest to normalcy?
CP: Oh, my god. Honestly, there is not a normal goalie.
DP: Well, who is so bizarre...
CP: It's a prerequisite to be a weirdo. If you're a goalie, you're weird.
DP: Why is that?
CP: Well, if you had to stand in the net and face 100 mph slap shots or -- I don't know. I think you got to be crazy to be a net goalie.
DP: Do you ever feel sympathy for a goalie?
CP: Not very often, no.
DP: Because they can look pretty bad. They can be dejected.
CP: They can make or break your team. If you have a good goalie, you can have a good team. If you got a bad goalie, you're going to have a bad team ... I think the crazier your goalies are the better they are.
DP: So if you had kids, you would never let a goalie watch your children?
CP: No, I wouldn't.