Featured

Blues to retire Chris Pronger’s #44

|
Image for Blues to retire Chris Pronger’s #44

On Monday night at Enterprise Center, the St. Louis Blues play a crucial Central Division game against the Nashville Predators at 7 pm local time. However, Blues fans should tune in an hour earlier as the team is set to finally honor team legend Chris Pronger and officially retire his iconic no. 44 and raise his jersey up to the rafters.

Pronger will become the eighth Blues player to have his jersey retired by the club, joining Al MacInnis (No. 2), Bob Gassoff (No. 3), Bob Plager (No. 5), Barclay Plager (No. 8), Brian Sutter (No. 11), Brett Hull (No. 16), and Bernie Federko (No. 24). Technically, there are nine retired numbers including Wayne Gretzky and his No. 99, though that has been retired by the entire league.

Pronger’s Legacy in St. Louis

Pronger was originally drafted by the Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes) 2nd overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. In the summer of 1995, he was traded to the Blues for fan-favorite Brendan Shanahan in a move that went down as one of the most impactful trades in league history. After being acquired in exchange for a player as beloved in St. Louis as Shanahan was, Pronger faced adversity early on in his time in St. Louis. After years of highlight-reel hits and point totals that you would expect out of a forward, the six-foot-six, 220-pound defenseman cemented his own legacy as a Blues icon. Pronger played nine seasons of his Hall of Fame career donning the blue note, playing 598 regular-season games and tallying 84 goals and 356 points. His 272 assists as a Blue rank 9th all-time in team history, while he is the team’s all-time leader in plus/minus at +140.

The peak of Pronger’s time in St. Louis was the 1999-00 season in which he scored 14 goals and 62 points on his way to winning the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, the last Blues player to accomplish that feat. In addition, Pronger was named the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player, making him the last Blues player to win that award as well. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that no defenseman has been named league MVP since Pronger in 2000. Pronger’s career year led the Blues to their first and only President’s Trophy.

In what is perhaps the greatest NHL roster of all-time to not win the Stanley Cup, Pronger was a member of the 1995-96 Blues team that featured seven players who were eventually elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Along with Pronger who was inducted in 2015, that team also featured Gretzky, Hull, MacInnis, Glenn Anderson, Dale Hawerchuk, and Grant Fuhr.

After Gretzky left St. Louis after the 1995-96 season, Pronger was named his successor as team captain and held the role until 2003 when he handed it over to MacInnis, his long-time partner on defense who was named captain ceremoniously in the final year of his career in which he only played in three games.

Post-Blues success for Pronger

After nine seasons and ten years (one being the 2003-04 NHL lockout), Pronger’s time in St. Louis came to an end in the summer of 2005 when he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in a deal that included future Blues captain Eric Brewer. After a year in Edmonton, Pronger was traded again, this time to the Anaheim Ducks where he was finally able to reach the mountain top, winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2006-07. He was named captain of the Ducks for the 2007-08 season before being dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009. Pronger reached the Stanley Cup Final once again with the Flyers in 2009-10, though they ultimately fell to the Chicago Blackhawks. In 2011, Pronger was named captain of the Flyers, making him one of the only players in NHL history to be named captain by three different franchises.

Pronger’s time as captain in Philadelphia was sadly short-lived as a concussion early in the 2011-12 season ultimately ended his playing career. Famously known as one of the toughest players in the sport, Pronger dealt with concussions throughout his career. Fortunately, a decade later, he appears to be doing well in his post-playing life as he has moved back to St. Louis with his family and has been active with the team and the city for the past several years.

Pronger is one of the greatest Blues players of all time and frankly, the retirement of his jersey number is long overdue. Seventeen years after he was traded from the Blues, you still can’t go to a game at Enterprise Center without seeing a fan in a no. 44 sweater. Monday night’s ceremony is set to be a historic night in St. Louis, so here’s to hoping the Blues can finish it off with a win over Nashville.

Main image credit

Embed from Getty Images

Share this article