Expectations have followed him everywhere. Whether as the second pick in the NHL draft in 1993 or when he was traded for a popular All-Star like Brendan Shanahan, Chris Pronger knew he had to perform. Some cave under the pressure, but Pronger thrived. All he did was make six All-Star games, win two gold medals at the Olympics, a Stanley Cup, a Norris Trophy for being the top defenseman, and a Hart Trophy for being the Most Valuable Player.
"Chris Pronger is the best outlet passer in NHL history," Darren Pang once said. Pronger didn't play hockey: He understood hockey. Pronger was the best player in the world for one season, and arguably the best defenseman of his generation. His career will be capped off with a Hall of Fame induction one day. His career was cut short because of concussions in 2011, a condition he still is dealing with to this day. Most of his time nowadays is spent watching his three children play sports and doing some scouting for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Back in the day, if Pronger played for your team, you loved every aspect of his game. If he played on the other team, you hated his guts. Pronger may have been the league's No. 1 villain. One time during a brief, quiet moment while the national anthem was being sung in San Jose, somebody yelled at the top of their lungs, Pronger, you suck! Then everybody cheered. He relished the role, and played it well. For nine glorious years, Pronger was the man in St. Louis. Now, he's retired and living in the town where his star started to shine.
Olympic gold or Stanley Cup, what means more?
One Blues teammate in history you would want protecting your family?
Who is the one forward you did not want coming at you?
None, just the little weak guys. I had trouble with the little weak guys.
Gretzky, Lemieux or Orr to start a franchise?
Describe the Mike Keenan experience.
I was in his office after every period, after every game and before every practice. If there was a picture of the whipping boy, I was it.
How is your health?
It comes and goes. It's better than it was. I am still a long way off from being good. There are still a lot of things than can be symptomatic.
Do you want your two sons, Jack and George, to be hockey players?
It would be great if that's something that they really want to do. There are many factors involved, and they have to put the work in. It's a tremendous commitment, lots of hard work and practice.
Describe the pressure on playing for Team Canada in the Olympics.
There's a tremendous amount of pressure for us as Canadian hockey players to win the gold and perform well. The term, gold or bust, resonates with Canadian hockey.
1. Captain Phillips is a combination of Midnight Express and Argo. It makes you wonder, though, how in the world a ship could not be armed and not bring any protection?
2. There is one player from St. Louis playing for SLU and Mizzou basketball this season. Young men, wake up, stay at home, go the NCAA Tourney and make a name for yourself in your hometown.
3. I don't care if the Rams have drafted a bunch of receivers lately. They didn't have one catch more than 40 balls this season. Why not try to make Sam Bradford great and draft a real stud, and find out if Sam can really play?
4. Rick Hummel says he can't ever remember going to a spring training with so much starting pitching depth. It is hard to believe that Lance Lynn or Joe Kelly—or maybe both—may not be good enough to be in the rotation.
5. One of the best organizations in St. Louis is Unlimited Play. Two women are building state-of-the-art playgrounds all over the region for kids who have disabilities. They have two more about to open in the city of St. Louis; that would put them at eight. Go to UnlimitedPlay.org for more information.
Frank Cusumano is a 14-time Emmy Award winner on KSDK-TV, and also has been a radio commentator for 20 years. Follow Frank on Twitter @Frank_Cusumano.