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Delusional defenseman

Pronger owes Oilers fans an apology, not a rip session

Posted: Thursday September 21, 2006 4:51PM; Updated: Thursday September 21, 2006 4:51PM
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Chris Pronger upset many Edmonton fans when he requested a trade right after a heartbreaking Stanley Cup Finals.
Chris Pronger upset many Edmonton fans when he requested a trade right after a heartbreaking Stanley Cup Finals.
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Some people just don't get it.

Three months down the road, Chris Pronger was happily ensconced in Anaheim and the mystery of his bizarre post-Cup Finals trade request was old news in Edmonton.

Sure, the Oiler fans who worshipped him last spring were looking forward to serenading his return with a chorus of "Pronger sucks," but outside of a small minority of die-hards, this was water under the bridge.

That is until Pronger ripped off the scab during an ill-conceived interview with the Edmonton Journal on Tuesday.

In it, the new Duck expressed his anger at the rumors that sprang up when the news that he wanted out of Edmonton began circulating just days after Game 7.

"I knew I'd be Public Enemy No. 1," he told the Journal. "But I'm pissed off by all the rumors and innuendo surrounding my leaving."

He's pissed off? Before he started blasting the fans, he needed to spend some time in front of a six-foot-six mirror.

All right, on one hand, you can see where he's coming from. The talk, particularly about his wife, hasn't been flattering. But what did he expect? He made the curious decision to leave Edmonton less than a year after inking a five-year contract. And instead of stepping up and taking the heat he obviously knew was coming, Pronger chose the path of least resistance: he hightailed it to Mexico after the Finals while someone in his camp leaked the story to a Toronto Sun reporter that he wanted to be dealt. When he returned, he compounded the situation by saying it was a family issue and that any details beyond that were personal.

No one should argue the validity of that choice. A player has a right to put his family first. No, not a right -- a responsibility. It's clear that his family couldn't be happy in Edmonton, so he did what he had to do.

But what Pronger is neglecting is his secondary responsibility to his employers ... and yes, to the fans.

The relationship between hockey fans and their teams can't be a one-way deal. It's not simply a matter of people spending their money to watch the athletes -- the athletes perform and take home the fans' money. There's an emotional investment on the part of the public that's taken to an even higher degree in a hockey-mad town like Edmonton.

For years, Oilers fans suffered while a succession of stars left town when their contract demands exceeded the team's limited budget. So it was a shock last summer when, for the first time in nearly a generation, a superstar picked them. The fans finally had someone worthy of their unconditional love. He sucked them in with an impressive regular season, then sealed the deal with an MVP-caliber performance in the playoffs.