Part of Pronger's makeup as a leader is being the agitator-in-chief for his team, and the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals are no exception. Witness Pronger here after Monday night's 2-1 Game 2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, repeating his violation of hockey protocol from Game 1 in which he collected the game puck in defeat to keep this one-of-a-kind memento away from his rivals:
The Edmonton Journal's You Bet blog asked, "How childish can you be?" National Post columnist Bruce Arthur wrote via Twitter: "LOVE CBC's footage of Chris Pronger stealing the pucks at the end of both games. He is truly a comprehensive [expletive]."
But Pronger wasn't done yet — with the Blackhawks or his friends in the media.
Ex-Flyer Ben Eager(notes), who scored the game-winning goal for the Blackhawks in Game 2, engaged Pronger as they left the ice. What did Eager say to him? "Nothing, really. Just a little postgame chat," said Eager. "He's been picking the pucks up after the game, and I just told him he can keep it."
No doubt a little more colorfully than Eager's letting on. Pronger's response? Shooting a Blackhawks souvenir towel at him, as they both earned misconduct penalties at the end of the game.
Pronger was asked about both incidents in the locker room by a writer from the DelCo Times and by Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly, who had the following transcript of the snippy exchange:
"I couldn't hear him, I don't speak gibberish," said Pronger, who picked up a misconduct penalty at the very end and got into it with Eager.
Where's the puck, Pronger was asked.
"It's in the garbage," Pronger replied. "Where it belongs."
You shot a towel at Eager when he complained?
"So what," Pronger replied.
You're collecting pucks now?
"Why not? What's wrong? It's sitting there. What else is gonna happen to it? It's sitting there. Sure, why not. You got a problem with that?"
Are you gonna sell it on eBay?
"I don't know. Apparently, it got him upset. So I guess it worked, didn't it? It's too bad. I guess little things amuse little minds."
Boy that last line could be psychoanalyzed for the entirety of the offseason with regard to Pronger ...
There's always been a purity to Pronger's dirtiness, whether he was elbowing his way to a suspension or acrimoniously leaving Edmonton on a trade demand or sparring with the media. He's arguably hockey's most hated player, but never actively sought the title. There's never been a campaign to rehabilitate his behavior on the ice, like the one currently trying to soften the game of Alex Ovechkin(notes); and there's never been an effort from the NHL to change his attitude, like the padded room Gary Bettman sent Sean Avery to find himself in.
Pronger is hockey's answer to Larry David from "Curb Your Enthusiam": Snide and provocative; jovial and beloved (by the ones he's with); accomplished and renowned; and completely singular in purpose, which is to do whatever Chris Pronger wants to do no matter what the collateral damage.
The rest of us saw a 35-year-old man-child who acted crassly and dishonorably in defeat. But his teammates saw a leader who not only has dominated Chicago's top players in the series while logging huge ice time, but a player attempting to shift momentum through gamesmanship and absorbing the scrutiny of the media with his team down 2-0.
Pronger cares in the sense that it's all calculated. But other than that, he couldn't care less. Which is what makes him so good at what he does.
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