Thursday, May 26, 2011
Posted: 3:59 p.m.
By Sarah BaickerCSNPhilly.com
Chris Pronger wanted to know if a certain reporter was on the line during a conference call Thursday morning.
The Flyers top defenseman had just been asked to respond to the recent finger-pointing at team captain Mike Richards, and as it turns out, he had taken offense to one story that questioned whether Richards would be better off by giving up the C on his jersey.
The reporter wasnt on the call, which, considering Prongers response to the story, was probably a good thing.
What good does that do? Pronger asked, about the idea of Richards stepping down. That is the most ridiculous thought I have heard yet.
This is on-the-job training for Mike, he continued. I was brought in to help him be a captain and do all the rest of that and kind of help with my experiences. I think I got here, he was 24. Hes now 26. I think hes made some strides."
By now, the barrage of criticism aimed at the Flyers captain is old news. Hes been accused of immaturity, of heartlessness, of being moody in dealings with the media. His struggles have been well documented, especially over the past two seasons.
I went through them as a young captain; I went through them as a player, Pronger said. Getting booed, getting mouthed off walking out of the rink and wanting to fight guys after games and all the rest of it. Its not easy, especially on a team when the expectations are this high and the fans are this passionate.
On the surface, Pronger and Richards come off as complete opposites. Where Richards is quiet and introspective, Prongers presence in any situation is immediately known if not because of his size than certainly because of his volume.
But at 36, Pronger has had time to mature and develop into the player and the person he is. And, like Richards, he has learned how to be an NHL player by, well, being an NHL player.
Everybody does things their own way, Pronger said. I wasnt always this vocal with the media or this patient. It takes time, you have to have those experiences. I think when you go through tough times, maybe this is one of them for him, you learn an awful lot about yourself, you gain a lot of experience. This game and life is not easy.
That also goes for dealing with the media, who have seen their own fair share of criticism from fans recently regarding the Richards situation, especially online in blog posts and on message boards.
I think as his career progresses, he is going to understand more and more what the medias job is, Pronger said. Just to give you guys a little, just a little bit, just a little taste. Which is what I do, just give you a little taste. You dont have to give it all, just enough so you guys can do your job and leave him alone. Thats all experience.
That so much attention is focused on the Flyers' captain won't change, and Pronger acknowledged it. But the defenseman also expressed displeasure that Richards has received, for whatever reason, too much of the blame for the way the team's season ended.
I think its a little ridiculous to be blaming one person, Pronger said. We win as a team and lose as a team period, end of story.
E-mail Sarah Baicker at firstname.lastname@example.org
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