Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pronger's hockey narrative honest, hilarious

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If ever a hockey player should have Winnipeg listed as his hometown, it's Sean Pronger.

More than two full seasons with the Manitoba Moose, both IHL and AHL versions, will have to do.

The much-travelled centreman from Dryden, Ont., spent almost his entire 11-year pro career fretting and worrying and obsessing over what coaches, GMs, scouts, teammates and fans thought about him and how he fit into the pecking order of the 17 teams he played for in that span.

The near-paranoia was the product of being a bubble player, a self-proclaimed marginal NHL talent.

It's all laid out in beautiful, honest and often hilarious detail in Pronger's new book, Journeyman, The Many Triumphs (and even more numerous defeats) of a Guy Who's Seen Just About Everything in the Game of Hockey, co-authored with Dan Murphy, which hit shelves this week.

Pronger's story doesn't precisely coincide with Winnipeg's non-NHL period from 1996 to 2011, but he is personification of the hockey angst that consumed so many in this area in the "dark" years.

And the fact the 39-year-old, who played a total of 274 NHL regular-season and playoff games, had two stints playing in Winnipeg is only appropriate.

The book chronicles, via Pronger's amazing memory capacity, his every team and move from 1994 to 2005.

His Moose seasons are included and Winnipeg ought to be flattered that he considered both of them highlights, even if neither of them involved an NHL team here.

In 2000-01, Pronger was a playoff hero, scoring the winner in Game 7 of the Moose comeback victory over the Houston Aeros.

In 2003-04, he requested a trade back here for family reasons -- his wife was pregnant at the time -- and if nothing else, his presence was important from a telling-of-history perspective.

That Moose team struggled mightily under Vancouver Canucks' oversight and a selfish element to the room. Pronger nailed the key moments of that season, the last time the Moose missed the playoffs, with the tales of intoxicated Fedor Fedorov at mid-season and a belligerent Fedorov (and his forgettable sidekick Kirill Kolstov) near the end of it.

The latter, a watering-hole, take-it-outside KO of Fedorov by then-newcomer Kevin Bieksa launched the current Canucks defenceman into a permanent place in local hockey lore.

The detail and Pronger's stream of consciousness of these and other chapters, like teammate time with Wayne Gretzky to his presence for the infamous Steve Moore-Todd Bertuzzi incident (Chapter 12: Fourth Man on the Pile) is impressive.

"When certain things happen to you, you don't forget them," he said Friday from his home in Newport Beach, Calif., where he has lived since retiring and now oversees his clothing line (www.jrnymn.com). "Certain conversations I'll never forget. And I found as I was writing about it, I took myself back there and it sparked more and more memories. And just getting in the locker-room again, it just picked up where it left off.

"It was kind of therapeutic to go back and relive so many things that happened over all those years."

The book is not without its emotional roller coasters, including the harrowing week of crisis surrounding the birth of his first daughter, Kaia, in 2002, a story which has a happy ending and in the end, has helped him come to terms with so many of those trips to the coach's office, which didn't turn out so happily.

Of all the book's threads, and other than the relationship with younger brother Chris (yes, you've heard of him) one that feeds Pronger's self-deprecating style so well is his reference to his wife "Mrs. Journeyman," whose actual name isn't revealed until Page 318.

"I was glad I was kept anonymous," Mrs. Pronger said on the phone Friday.

The work, including the jacket, is a keeper; the best hockey book I've read in years.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 10, 2012 C4

History

Updated on Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 11:45 AM CST: adds colour photo, adds fact box

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