Christopher Robert Pronger (born October 11, 1974 in Dryden, Ontario) is a defenceman for the Edmonton Oilers, and formerly the Hartford Whalers and St. Louis Blues. He has received many awards during his career in the NHL, and is considered one of the top defencemen in the league.
After two outstanding seasons with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, Chris was drafted second by the Hartford Whalers in 1993. He went on to play 81 games for the Whalers in the 1993-1994 season, and he earned a spot on the NHL All-Rookie Team that year. However, Chris was arrested for drunk driving, involved in a barroom brawl, and was considered by some to be immature and awkward. After a second season in Hartford, Chris was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Brendan Shanahan on July 27, 1995.
Chris's coach when he came to St. Louis was Mike Keenan, who has a distinct coaching style that some players respond to, while others reject. Keenan's guidance is often cited as a factor in Chris's maturation. In his third season with St. Louis, at age 23, Chris was named to the Second NHL All-Star Team. He also played for the Canadian Olympic team in Nagano.
Chris continued to earn awards. He played in the NHL All-Star Game in 1999. The 1999-2000 NHL season set a new standard for Chris, though. He scored 62 points, was +52, and had 92 penalty minutes. In addition to his offensive contributions, Chris dominated in the defensive zone. For his efforts, he won the Norris Trophy, the Hart Trophy, and was named to the First All-Star Team.
In the season following his MVP, Chris struggled with injuries, playing only 51 games, although he did score 47 points. In 2002, Chris won a gold medal with the Canadian Olympic Team in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In the NHL, he had another fine season and played in the All-Star Game again. His next season was even further marred by injury, as he was only able to play 5 games. He once again bounced back with a quality season in 2003-04, though. Following the 2004-05 NHL lockout and imposition of the NHL salary cap, the Blues traded Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers for defencemen Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch. While the Blues needed to clear cap space, the Oilers were able to sign Pronger to a long-term, high-paying contract (five years at $6.25 million/year). The Pronger trade is a clear early sign that the traditional separation of the "small-market" and "large-market" teams is not nearly as large a factor as before the lockout - perhaps not relevant at all.
Chris is widely considered one of the best defencemen in the league due to his offensive and defensive skills. He can use his 6'6" (198 cm) frame to reach pucks and physically dominate forwards. He also uses his size to deliver powerful body checks.