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September 20, 2007

Chris Pronger

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to our call.
Today's guest is Anaheim Ducks Chris Pronger. Thanks to Chris for taking the time today to answer your questions and thanks to Alex Gilchrist for helping to arrange this call.
Chris was a dominant force on the Anaheim blueline in capturing the first Stanley Cup Championship of his 13-year NHL career. Chris played an average of 30 minutes and 11 seconds per game and ranked fourth on the Ducks in scoring with 15 points in 19 post-season games.
The Ducks will open defense of the Stanley Cup by playing two games against cross-state rivals the Los Angeles Kings in the Premiere Series at the O2 Arena played in London on September 29 and 30, and is looking to reach the Stanley Cup for the third consecutive year, and would be the first player to do so in over 20 years.

Q. Is going to Europe an inconvenience or is that just the way things work in the National Hockey League being the Stanley Cup champions? And not only do you not have (Teemu) Selanne and (Scott) Niedermayer, but now you're getting some injuries, too, to (Mathieu) Schneider and Pahlsson. How difficult does that make the start of the season?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think in a new environment with the new CBA, going to Europe and things of that nature are hopefully ways that we can market and brand the game in new avenues and new venues, and obviously new countries. And obviously the purpose in going to England is opening up a new building for the Kings' owner, but at the same time it's a for us to go over there and show off our product and try to bring some fan following in England.
The second part of your question, obviously with Scotty not being here, certainly two big holes that we are not going to be able to fill. But at the same time, the second part of the question having Sami and Schneids, and obviously Jiggy hurt to start the season is difficult. We didn't have very many injuries last year at the start of the year, and we were able to kind of play with pretty much the same lineup through the first probably 25, 30 games, and we were able to rattle off a pretty good start to the season, and I think that's going to be imperative for us again to get off to that good start and get some wins under our belt and kind of get that chemistry and that flow that we had going last year.

Q. I just wanted to ask you about the coverage the NHL is getting on NBC. Last year it had one of lowest primetime ratings in NBC history and also pulled out early in an Eastern Conference game for the Preakness. What are your thoughts on the coverage the NHL is getting now on TV?
CHRIS PRONGER: Obviously we would like better ratings, I don't think there's any doubt about that. But at the same time, it is a new partner last year and we obviously need to grow.
You know, the national TV market for our sport has been pretty weak. Regionally it's been excellent in a lot of markets -- (line static) -- and match up made for television. But the Rangers and Detroits and teams that get good TV market share, certainly when those teams are not in there, it affects the ratings quite a bit.
It's just an opportunity for us to continue to grow the game. Would we like better ratings? Absolutely. Would we like to see more done? Absolutely. At the same time we have to keep making strides and going in the right direction and make sure we are not only pushing the league, but pushing ourselves to make sure guys are growing the game and make sure guys are available for things like this or going to Europe or whatever the case may be to make sure we are doing whatever is possible and within our grasp to try to grow the game and market us in the best possible light.

Q. What are your thoughts on being on Versus at this point as opposed to ESPN?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think guys are a little upset that ESPN dropped us the way they did, having pretty much grown ESPN2 into the station that it is now.
But, you know, these are things that are out of my control, man. I'm a player. I can't do anything about it. That's something for the league to deal with and Mr. Bettman and Bill Daly and the Board of Governors to discuss and figure out what's the best possible avenue or route to take.

Q. The shorter season, how will that hinder your season, playing in Europe and the road games on the way back?
CHRIS PRONGER: To be honest with you, I don't really know how it's going to affect our team. Me personally, I feel pretty good.
You know, I felt a lot worse last year. It was a little bit shorter off-season for me last year, so I didn't feel as good and was able to train quite well and do all of the things that I need to do in the summer to prepare for the season. So I actually feel fairly healthy going into the season this year, as opposed to last year.
So from that perspective, all of the travel, going over to Europe, I'm sure it's going to affect players a little bit differently. But while we are over in the Eastern time zone, I think Brian Burke did some research, while we are over there, get some extra games in while we're over there in that time zone.
We'll see, it's easy to sit back and be an armchair quarterback if it doesn't work; but if it does, not too much is mentioned of it.

Q. Do you think there should be European teams in the National Hockey League? There's been a lot of talk that with the NHL teams going to Europe maybe there will be a European division and play games against North American teams, or will that be just geographically too much to handle?
CHRIS PRONGER: Let me ask you this: Do you want to play in Europe?

Q. Do I want to play in Europe? I'd rather play in North America.
CHRIS PRONGER: How do you get around to the draft? Will you take a Canadian kid and ship him off to Europe? That's the only logistical problem. When I heard that -- if I get drafted, I don't want to go to Europe. I want to play the NHL in North America. So from that perspective, I see that being as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to that happening.
Or do you just break up the teams here and say the European teams play here and the Americans play here? I don't know how that would work. But obviously that's going to -- if that's the route they are looking at, they have obviously got a lot of questions to be answered and things, you know, logistics like we just spoke about to be answered, as well.

Q. Brian Burke is somebody who has been a part of your career for a long time, can you talk about just the job that he's done in such a short time in Anaheim and maybe kind of what his thumbprint is on your team?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think when you look at when he first got hired here, the inroads he's made two years he's been here; he's pretty much tried to mold the team around his style and the way he wants the team to play and the way he wants -- comes out and gets a coach that will coach the way he wants a team to play. So I think from that perspective, you know, he didn't waste any time in putting those pieces into place.
You know, getting team oh to come back, there's a number of things that needed to happen for the success of this team. But I think that the job that he's done in the short time he's been here; obviously there were some pretty good pieces in place with respect to many young players here, but the moves that he has gone out and made are pretty bold and have certainly paid off for him.

Q. Do you think he's molding the team in his own personality, it kind of matches the way he is; do you feel that way, that it's really his philosophy from just the kind of guy he is?
CHRIS PRONGER: I think his personality and the type of guy he is and that's the way he likes to see the game played. He sticks to his guns in that respect. He's certainly a players' GM and stands up for his players, and guys respect him for that and guys appreciate the way he handles us. There's no not knowing where you stand with him. You know where you are and he's not afraid to confront players and not afraid to obviously tell you if you're not very good and not afraid to tell you if you're playing very well.
And you know, as a player I think it's a refreshing attitude to be a part of and you want to play harder for a guy who is going to be straightforward with you and tell you how it is.

Q. With some of the distractions and the short summer and everything sort of pointing towards negativity at this point, you still have a real talented roster; what do you say to people that say maybe you guys can't repeat?
CHRIS PRONGER: You mean there's people out there negative? Really? That's a thought. That's a shock.
You know what, much like what happened last year, you know, there's always going to be doubters. There's always going to be people that will be on the bandwagon when you start playing well and say "I told you so" that they were going to win. And you get into a little bit of a slide and people jump off the bandwagon and this and that. There's always going to be those people.
At the end of the day what really matters is what we believe in the locker room. No matter what is written about us or what is said about us in on TV or whatnot, at the end of the day, it's got to be everybody in that room believing that we can win much like that was the edict last year; no matter what was going on last year, even when we went into those slides, there was always that belief no matter what the score was, that we could play well and win hockey games.
And I don't think this year is any different. We certainly have to come out -- we're a little bit behind the 8-ball with some injuries. We are missing obviously Scotty and Teemu, and that's obviously one of the reasons why people might be looking at us as not having a chance to repeat or whatever the case may be.
But, you know, all we can do is look back on the experiences we had last year and what happened when I got hurt, Scotty got hurt, Jiggy got hurt; some pretty important pieces of the puzzle got hurt last year, and guys had to figure out what needed to be done to be successful, what needed to be done to make sure that we were playing at a top level.
If we've got a good group of young players, we've still got a heck of a lot of talent. It's just up to us to understand and make sure that we're pushing the right buttons. Obviously Randy (Carlyle) knows and is going to be pushing us like he did last year, if not harder. We have to make sure we're answering the bell and showing the pride and that determination that we had last year.

Q. I was wondering if you personally or as a team approach it differently now that you are the defending champions.
CHRIS PRONGER: I think the only approach that might be different is that we've got to push ourselves even harder, just simply because of the fact that we are defending Stanley Cup champions. We are going to have an even bigger target on our backs. The way that we play, teams are obviously going to be gunning for us.
You know, I think that's the biggest thing is that we can't slack off and think things are going to be easy. That's when we get ourselves into difficulty and go into the slides that we saw last year in the mid part of the season.
We've got to play 110%, we've got to grind and we've got to play physical. When we don't, it really slows in our game and we're just that one step behind. So we have to in my estimation, we have to push even harder.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about what you did with your day with the Cup, where you went, what were maybe a couple of highlights of the experience, who you were excited to show it to; and also, where do you make your off-season home now?
CHRIS PRONGER: My off-season home is right here in California.
I think probably the most -- I was talking to a lot of guys, and a lot of us have a lot of the same memories in that it's getting together with your old minor league coaches and your old buddies that you used to play with; and just seeing the way they respond to seeing the Cup and being able to hold it. They feel that they were a part of you getting there and a part of you winning it, and that's a pretty great feeling to have; and seeing their reaction in the way that they kind of -- everything seems to revolve around the Cup; and the smiles; some people don't even know what it is but they see this great, big, shiny trophy and they think it's pretty cool.
I think that's the biggest thrill for me.

Q. If Scott comes back, and obviously it's a health matter, is that as good a defense as you would ever put together in the history of this league?
CHRIS PRONGER: I would think so. I think if Scotty does come back, and we can talk about if this and if that; but if he was to come back, I said to somebody a few days ago, that probably would be one of the best trade deadline deals ever.

Q. But again, as good as you guys were last year, you add a Mathieu Schneider, you can do it defensively?
CHRIS PRONGER: It's certainly given us a lot of options and I think it would take some minutes away and probably wouldn't tax us as much, which is always nice. We'll have to wait and see. Scotty is obviously quite a ways away from making a decision.
Until then, obviously we need to get Mati back healthy and get our defense core healthy. But certainly, you know, if we were able to get Scotty back, it would be an added bonus.
DAVID KEON: Thanks very much, Chris, for your time today.

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