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December 22, 2009

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 today's call.
With us we have Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger. Thanks to Chris for taking the time to join us and answer your questions and thanks to Zack Hill of the Flyers' public relations staff for arranging the call. In ten days, Chris will take part in the NHL's annual outdoor game when the Flyers take on the Boston Bruins at historic Fenway Park on New Year's Day in the 2010 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic.
In his 16th NHL season Chris leads the Flyers in average ice time at 26 minutes and 25 seconds per game. He's second in plus/minus at +8, ranks third on the team and eighth among all NHL defensemen with 22 points on five goals and 17 assists.
A native of Dryden, Ontario, he's participated in 62 playoff games over the past four years, including a trip to the final with Edmonton in 2006 and a Stanley Cup Championship with Anaheim in 2007. Again, we thank Chris for joining us to answer your questions. We'll open it up now.

Q. The other day Peter Laviolette said he was going to switch you from the right side to the left side because he wanted you over there for the left wing lock. I noticed a couple years ago that John Stevens was using a right side ?? forcing him up the right side, when he had Hatcher and Smith and Timonen over there. Is that something John was trying to do with you on the right side, force them up that side, and is that part of the difficulty the team is having right now, switching from one kind of a forechecking system to a different one?
CHRIS PRONGER: I don't think that's the issue at all. To be honest with you, if I knew what was wrong with us, I would certainly tell every last one of us what we need to do. But you know what, we're just going through a tough time right now. We've got to figure it out ourselves and figure out that the game is fun. We need to play with energy and enthusiasm and excitement and bring that fun level back to the game.
Obviously winning is a big part of having fun, but you've got to be excited to come to the rink every day and work hard and prepare for each and every game.

Q. We've got a big game coming up on January 1st in Boston, the Winter Classic, and that should be fun. That should be something you guys are looking at for fun and enjoyment. Tell us a little bit about your childhood background of playing in outdoor games in Dryden.
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, there was an awful lot of them. It was pretty much every day, whether we were playing street hockey or playing at the outdoor rink, Milestone Rink, which was basically a two?block walk from my house, whether it be after school going to the outdoor rink and playing or after school setting up the two nets out in front of our house and playing a little brand of street hockey with full contact fighting and all the fun stuff that happens throughout the course of a fun hockey game.
But a lot of great memories with a lot of great people.

Q. You had an older brother, too, so was it a little bit rougher for you playing with the kids his age?
CHRIS PRONGER: (Laughing) Yeah, there was a lot of bleeding noses and things like that, but it was a lot of fun. I got to challenge myself playing against older kids.

Q. You guys are about to start on this road trip that extends through the Winter Classic. Do you guys look at this six?game trip as almost a make?or?break stretch for you guys?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think when you're struggling like we have, it's nice to get back on the road and kind of get away from everything and try to bond on the road and really find ourselves, find our identity again. I think we've lost it through this last little stretch.
Going on the road, getting together, having team dinners and being around the guys and getting the group together is always a good way to kind of get over what ails you, and certainly as you said, this six?game stretch here is very important to our hockey team.
We've got a number of division rivals we're going to be playing as well as the Winter Classic, which is a big event for us and our team and organization. We obviously want to get the ship back on track and get playing well and start winning some hockey games.
Going on the road, there's no time like the present.

Q. It's interesting you mentioned that you want to kind of put the fun back in the game and realize that hockey can be a ?? it's a fun thing. This is kind of an opportunity, the Winter Classic. Isn't this kind of the perfect situation to maybe do that?
CHRIS PRONGER: It is the perfect setting to be honest with you. What better way to get back to your roots and your childhood than playing in an outdoor game and playing in front of, I don't know, 35,000 people and enjoying yourself out in nature and the elements. It certainly should be a lot of fun, and it should hopefully be able to bring back ?? I'm hoping that the fun will already be back in our game before the 1st. But it would definitely be a step ahead and a step in the right direction, as well.

Q. And last thing, what's been the biggest adjustment for you guys under Peter?
CHRIS PRONGER: I mean, we can talk about systems, we can talk about all the X's and O's and things like that, which obviously he's implemented his own systems and they're a little bit different, but at the end of the day, it's hockey. We've all played this game for a long time, and you've got to go out there and play the game and have fun and work for one another and work for the guy sitting next to you doing all the little things, getting pucks in deep, taking hits and making plays, blocking shots, making good passes, all the little things that kind of get overlooked when you look at the grand scheme of the game.
They all add up, the little things all add up to the big accomplishments, and right now we're missing a few of those things. One night it's one thing, and another night it's another thing. We've got to get all of that together. All the little things that make hockey great that make it a fun game, we've got to get them all going in the right direction and have everybody on the same page for us to be successful.

Q. I wanted to ask you, expanding upon the last question a little bit, with the Winter Classic here and you being the veteran you are, you just articulated how important it is to get the fun back in the game. Do you take a role to try to impart that knowledge to everybody on the team, remind everyone that you need to get that fun back in the game in order to get this team turned around?
CHRIS PRONGER: Well, I think we all understand that it's certainly no fun coming to the rink when you're losing. Guys are disappointed, guys are just trying to ?? deer in the headlights. We didn't think we'd be in this situation. We didn't think we'd be having to deal with what we're having to go through right now.
But having said that, if we're able to overcome this challenge and overcome this adversity, how much stronger and more united we're going to be as a group if we're able to come together and figure this thing out quickly and get back on track and get ourselves back into the mix and back into contention to not only make the playoffs but maybe make some hay. We've got, I think, 47 games or so to do that.
It's going to take coming to the rink with a smile on your face. As hard as it is to do it when you're losing or mired in a slump or whatever you want to call it, you've got to show up with a smile on your face and energy and excitement to get out onto the rink, practice hard, prepare properly for the next game that's in front of you, and you can't look too far ahead and worry about the Winter Classic on the 1st. We've got to worry about tomorrow night against Tampa Bay and go from there and take baby steps and just worry about that next game that's in front of us. Pretty soon we'll get a string of games together, start having fun again, and next thing you know the Winter Classic is here and we can hopefully use that as another vault to improving our hockey team and having that much more fun.

Q. One other question just about the Winter Classic. Have you talked to other players who have been in it to help prepare for that, or are you just relying on what you knew as a kid to make sure you've got the right clothes, et cetera, to be ready for the game?
CHRIS PRONGER: Yeah, obviously you never know what the weather is going to be like. It could be 40 degrees in Boston, it could be ?10. It could rain, it could snow, it could be bright. You might have to use the football shading under your eyes. I know some guys use the tinted visor to help them with the sun and the glare off the ice and things like that. I've talked to a few guys that have played in it, and you really don't know what you're going to get to be honest with you because you don't know what the weather is going to be like. The weather and Mother Nature are probably going to play a bigger factor than anything else throughout the course of the game, with the conditions, whether it snows, rains, it's sunny, cloudy, all the things I just mentioned. It's probably going to be the biggest factor more than anything.

Q. Have you watched the games in previous years, and what did you think when you watched them?
CHRIS PRONGER: I didn't get a chance to see last year's game. I saw the Pittsburgh/Buffalo game and parts of the Edmonton/Montreal game, and that one was super cold, which I'm hoping is not the case for this one. But I saw the Buffalo game. It was nice for a while, and then the snow; what better way to kind of showcase hockey outside when you're seeing a little snow falling and whatnot. I mean, that makes for a very serene setting and the ultimate hockey picture. But hopefully it only maybe drizzles a little bit.

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