When Chris Pronger was traded to the Flyers, his former general manager in Anaheim, Brian Burke, called him the most dominant voice in a dressing room.
Ask any Flyer and theyll agree.
Even though he never wore the C when Mike Richards was captain, Prongers voice resonated among every player on the Flyers, even if it caused some friction.
On the eve of training camp opening, the Flyers announced late Friday afternoon that Pronger would be their 18th captain for the 2011-12 season.
So does anything change for Pronger now that he wears a C on his sweater?
I dont think so, Pronger said. You have to be who you are and play the way you always played, whether you have a letter on your jersey or not. If youre a leader, lead. If youre a quiet, unassuming type of guy, who just goes out and works hard and plays to the best of his ability, then do that.
Dont do anything outside your comfort zone or outside anything you have done to this point to be successful. Everybody who comes into that locker room and wears the jersey and that Flyer emblem has done something to impress upon somebody that theyre going to provide something our team needs. I dont think they need to change that one bit.
The soon-to-be 37-year-old becomes the fifth defenseman in Flyer history to wear the C. Richards captained the Flyers from 2008-09 until the end of last season.
In making the announcement, general manager Paul Holmgren said that Kimmo Timonen and Danny Briere would be alternates.
With Chriss experience and presence, we felt that he was the perfect player to take over as captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, Holmgren said. Having Kimmo and Danny, both former captains in the NHL, serving as alternates, really gives us a strong, dedicated leadership group.
All three of these players know what it takes to win and are excellent role models both on and off the ice.
Timonen served as a captain in Nashville; Briere in Buffalo.
Pronger said the captaincy issue was first broached by Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette in July when he visited Skate Zone for a medical checkup for his wrist and back.
We touched on it briefly, Pronger recalled. Lavy was here and we had a little conversation and I said I have bigger fish to fry. I need to focus on getting myself healthy and back to where I need to be to play the way you need me to play if you do indeed want me to be the captain for me to be effective.
While Pronger, who was a captain in St. Louis and Anaheim, seemed the obvious choice, a number of Flyer fans favored the more low-key Briere.
I think Chris is a great leader and a very good choice by the organization, Briere texted CSNPhilly.com.
Pronger last captained a team in 2007-08 (Anaheim Ducks).
The one in 07 was thrust upon me because Scotty Niedermayer retired and we were coming off a Stanley Cup, Pronger recalled. Everything was roses.
Going into it, I knew it was going to be difficult because Scotty and Teemu Selanne werent there, youre going to have a Cup hangover and have all these things going against you and it was that.
It was a difficult 4-5 months and then Scotty came back and assumed his captaincy and kind of got back on track and we did our thing.
He says hes a different captain now than earlier in his career as a member of the Blues.
Youre always going to be a little different with the experiences you go through, Pronger said Age and just everything youve gone through, throughout the course of your career
Whether it be Olympics, Stanley Cups, five different teams Ive been on, different captains I have had and been. Theres no question you will always be a little bit different. I dont think that changes how I play or how I need to perform.
Pronger is recovering from off-season surgery to repair his right wrist and back. Because of his injury rehab, Pronger will not make the start of training camp on Saturday, but will join his teammates at some point.
Holmgren said earlier in the week he expected Pronger to be ready for the clubs regular season opener on Oct. 6 in Boston.
This announcement would seem to bolster that anticipation, while stopping a possible distraction who wears the C? before it occurs.
When Pronger first arrived, there was friction between himself and Richards, which both players eventually spoke about in roundabout ways.
By the Stanley Cup Final in June 2010, it had evaporated with Richards admitting that having gone to the Olympics and spending time with Pronger and other Team Canada players, he began to feel at ease in his role as the captain with Pronger as a partner in the dressing room and not an adversary trying to upstage him.
Prongers biggest challenge now is a brand new team with at least seven new faces on it and some legitimate questions as to how long its going to take to find chemistry.
A lot of new faces, a lot of guys know one another, but dont know one another well, Pronger said. That is something Peter touched on with me when we talked about this.
We need to get guys together and camaraderie and chemistry and that flow going early in training camp and then onto first part of the season to get acclimated to one another, get comfortable and get off to a good start and get feeling good about ourselves so that we can get on a bit of a roll.
Form that bond you need in April, May and June when you come together and sell out for one another and be willing to sacrifice your body or whatever the case may be for the good of the team. Tomorrow is first step in that direction.
The last defenseman to captain the Flyers was Jason Smith (2007-08). Before him, Derian Hatcher (2005-06). Ed Van Impe was the first (1968-69). Eric Desjardins held the post longer than any other defenseman: 1999-2000 to 2001-02.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org