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June 3, 2007
OTTAWA, ONTARIO: Practice Day
FRANK BROWN: Questions for Coach.
Q. Your reaction to the league's decision about Chris Pronger?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: We accept the league's decision. Obviously we feel that the player did not intentionally try to hurt Dean McAmmond. It was unfortunately one of those things that happened. We have to live by the league's action. It's the rules we play under and you accept it and move on. It's a piece of adversity we have to deal with.
Q. Not the league, but Chris Pronger. I mean you said he didn't intend to hurt McAmmond. Obviously Pronger had an issue in the previous series. Are you unhappy with him for this?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: No, I'm not unhappy with Chris Pronger. I think he's played extremely well. I think a lot of times you look upon it, the positives that Chris Pronger brings to the table far outweigh any of the negatives.
And this is a negative. These things happen. And he's been part of two of them. And the way we look at it is the player was out playing hard. His forearm or elbow, whatever you want to call it, was extended to a position that made contact with the other player. It's a hockey play and we move on. He's been suspended for one game by the NHL and we live with the suspension and we move forward.
Q. You managed to get through one situation already in these playoffs without Chris. How much of a strain does it put on things, and as you move forward in the playoffs and things theoretically get tougher, how many times can you go to the well?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Well, again, this group has been able to deal with adversity on numerous occasions and this one is just another one along the way. I liken it to the 13 five-on-threes that we've had to kiln in the playoffs and only receive one back.
Those are the situations, adversity. You have to deal with it; you move on and move forward.
Q. Were you surprised there was a suspension considering there wasn't a penalty on the play?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: I don't think that has anything to do with it, because there's no penalty on the play. We think that the thing was totally unintentional. The league thought different. They made the decision. The suspension was handed down. Now we move forward.
Q. Randy, I think you were one of three last players to play without a helmet. Has hitting to the head changed since you've stopped playing, and are you alarmed by this?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Alarmed from the standpoint that there seems to be a lot more severe blows directed towards the head. I think from the earlier era of hockey, there was an old saying that you had to eat wood if you were going to come far enough and hard enough. And that was reality.
If somebody was putting you in a position of vulnerability, to be vulnerable to a high hit and coming across the ice and trying to direct a blow to the head, there was usually some sort of a Sherwood or Louisville hockey stick that they had to go through first. And that was accepted. The rules have changed. And that's years gone by.
And these situations, there's numerous ones that were involved in the game last night. There was another incident that went uncalled. And we think that those things have to be dealt with and they should be dealt with in the proper manner. And the league has the rules that they enforce. And we feel it's one that we have to live with.
Q. You talk about how the rules on the ice have changed among players. There was a time when being a dirty player was, didn't mind having a couple dirty players on your team. Chris Pronger will be portrayed as a dirty player now. Is he a dirty player?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Chris Pronger is a competitive player. I think in a lot of the situations I know people will say that he's using his size as excuse. But when you're 6-6 and you add another 2 inches, you're 6-8 on the ice and some people are only 5-10, some people only 6 foot, height disparity and that's what happens. His elbows are higher than most players' elbows. It's not like he raised his elbow to drive a blow to the individual's head. The player went to go by him and he moved his hand to the side. And that's what happens.
Q. Any update on Chris Kunitz? And secondly obviously this team has faced adversity and had poor games previously. Is this situation any different than any of those previous ones?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Well, the Chris Kunitz situation is he has an abdominal bruise. Likely to play. The adversity we've dealt with, it seems to be on a game to game basis with our team at times. And we've become a stronger group and as we've stated to the players that we will be judged by our reaction.
We can't change what happened last night. We felt we didn't play anywhere near to our capabilities. We have to make some adjustments. We have to do some things, a lot of things a lot better than what we did last night. And that will be how we'll be judged.
Q. Is there enough bad blood between these two teams that things might get far more intense, shall we say?
COACH RANDY CARLYLE: Well, I think that, you know, when you say bad blood, I think that there's some situations where when one individual was allowed to do more than another in some of the on-ice antics taking place last night and those are the things that seem to boil over. That's probably one or two individuals versus a grouping.
Obviously, when you play a team a number of times for the competition for the Stanley Cup, emotions are going to run high and everybody is reaching back. There's no easy way to win four games in the Stanley Cup Finals.
FRANK BROWN: Thanks, Coach.
Can I ask each of you for a reaction?
BRIAN BURKE: I'll go first. Colin Campbell just informed me Chris Pronger had been suspended for a game. From my perspective, we have to accept the league's decision. I think Chris, if you look at the hit, Chris' footwork wasn't right. He was trying to stop a guy, finish his check. But at the end, he stuck his arm out and got him in the head and the player's injured and we're sorry about that.
So we have to accept the fact that the league has imposed a one-game suspension here. The troubling part for me is that I think there should be, should have been another hearing today.
This was a reaction hit on a tough play. Chris Neil's hit on Andy McDonald was reprehensible. You guys go back and break down the tape, he took six strides in from the blueline, he's going full speed, full extension, elbow right to the head. Our player skates away. He gets a free pass. Their player gets hurt. Chris Pronger gets a game.
The most dangerous play in the game last night was not Chris Pronger's hit on Dean McAmmond. It was Neil's hit on Andy McDonald. That's the troubling part for us. We'll take our one game. That's Colin's job and it's a tough one and we'll take it.
But the fact that there was one hearing today is just mind-boggling to me.
CHRIS PRONGER: I think as Brian said, it was a reaction play. I stepped up to make the hit and got him with my forearm. And obviously you gotta suffer the consequences of what's come down. And it was a situation we were in last series, and certainly teammates rallied around me and rallied around one another. Certainly, we're looking for that again tomorrow.
But hopefully Dean's okay and there was no ill-will or malicious intent. It was just a reaction play that in a split second just things happen.
Q. Chris, when it's a player of your caliber, you're suspended for the second time, you're the kind of guy that your team really relies on and you won't be there for a very important game.
Is this something that you would apologize to your teammates for, and if so, what would you say to them and what can you do?
CHRIS PRONGER: I don't think I can do much other than hopefully we've learned over the course of the year to battle through adversity. We've had a number of key injuries, a number of situations throughout the course of the year. And this is a number in a long line of them.
I don't think there's any apologies that need to be made. I think they understand how I feel and the situation we're in. I don't think that's going to do anybody any good in our locker room. We need to look forward and look towards building towards Game 4 and getting better.
Q. Chris, you play the game on the edge. In light of the second suspension, are you going to have to make adjustments in your game?
CHRIS PRONGER: I don't think I can, for me to be the type of player I can be. Obviously, it's a fine line and it's getting finer and finer every year. And we have to make subtle adjustments, but I don't think I can make wholesale changes and still be the type of player I can be.
Q. Chris, for the Detroit series and now here, do you think the league is watching you more closely?
CHRIS PRONGER: (Laughing) No. I think, obviously, I've been in front of them before. And I'm now a repeat offender. And I'm sure that plays into it as it normally does in any situation.
And they did the right thing here. It's a situation where there was a head blow and that's, obviously, something that the league's trying to crack down on. And I don't blame them in any way.
BRIAN BURKE: We had a very different view of the Detroit suspension, as you all know. We felt - here we're saying we gotta take our medicine, even though it was a reaction hit. Chris got him in the head. We've got to live with that.
That one, we felt, was an entirely different circumstance where if Rob Niedermayer doesn't come in and pin the guy, it's a nothing play. So I don't think they're targeting Chris, no.
Q. You had mentioned in the previous suspension that the media played a role. Did you feel that there was any influence and will you call or talk to Dean McAmmond; did you talk to him?
CHRIS PRONGER: No, I have not. No, I don't think the media played a role in this one at all.
BRIAN BURKE: Our team spoke to Dean McAmmond. Bob Murray spoke to him.
Q. If Chris' elbow was not the most vicious incident of the night in your view, do you think the Ducks' reputation for toughness played any role in the suspension?
BRIAN BURKE: You'll have to ask Colin. We play a certain style. It's been successful for us. We're not a dirty team. We're a physical team. There's a big difference.
Q. Without the benefit of seeing that Neil hit, what do you think he should have received or what do you think should have happened in that case if you believe there should have been another hearing?
BRIAN BURKE: That's Colin's job, not mine. What I'm saying I heard Colin's conference call. He said we're going after blows to the head. You guys go back and look at that hit. Bryan Murray's quote was he couldn't believe four officials didn't see Chris' penalty. Tell me how they missed this one.
Okay. You go back and count the strides. And it's a full-fledged elbow right to his head.
Q. What was the main message of Bob Murray to Dean McAmmond today?
BRIAN BURKE: Just to see if he was all right.
Q. Brian or Chris, what do you make the fact that both went unpunished by the officials on the ice and then were disciplined by the league?
BRIAN BURKE: I can answer that. It's in the criteria itself for supplementary discipline. It's not a factor. The fact that it goes undetected, that doesn't in any way impede the league if they want to impose discipline. It never stopped me. It's right in the criteria, the fact that the incident went unpunished does not absolve you from supplementary discipline.
Q. Is there anything commonly done with officials who miss calls like this?
BRIAN BURKE: We're usually not working at this level. We're usually not working this round. I don't fault the officials. I didn't fault them. I didn't fault them on the - in the Detroit game; Robbie Niedermayer got tossed from that game. We get a one-game suspension and play half of a game without one of our better players. I didn't fault the officials then.
I've said this before when I was their boss, it's the hardest job officiating in all of pro sports. They get one look at it at ice level with guys moving at that speed and that size, they're going to make mistakes.
The fact is, we haven't complained about officiating in this series or any prior series. Our team motto is no complaints, no excuses.
So I don't fault the officials here for missing the call on Andy McDonald. I don't fault them for missing this call. The league still has the power to step in and take action.
Q. Chris, you were smart, obviously, not to comment on it after the game last night. But in hindsight, when it happened and McAmmond is on the ice, you're thinking to yourself, uh-oh, not again?
CHRIS PRONGER: I don't think that. You're hoping he's okay. And you never like seeing anybody lay on the ice like that. When a player is waving out for trainers and things like that, it's not a good feeling. And I certainly hope he's okay and hope things are going to be okay with him coming back in the series.
But it's an unfortunate situation that nobody likes to be in.
Q. I know you've been in Colin Campbell's position before so you know how tough his job is. Is this debate and discovery over what constitutes a head shot, not a head shot, is this something that should be happening in the off season as opposed to in the Stanley Cup Final?
BRIAN BURKE: I think it's on the agenda for the GM meeting tomorrow. As Chris said, we're in a contact sport and people are going to be hurt. Doesn't mean you like seeing a guy lying on the ice. Doesn't mean you encourage it.
We have to find a balance for taking shots to the head out like Chris Neil's shot, which to me was deliberate, went right at the guy and a play like this where it's a reaction hit. But even here, if the league feels even a reaction hit, we're going to go after that. We have to deal with that. The notion that we're going to take away hitting in our game because a big guy hits a little guy, and it's a hit on Connelly or a Koivu, and it happens to be a size mismatch and a guy gets a shoulder in the chops, we can't take that hit out. We can't. We've got to - what distinguishes North American hockey is the amount of body contact, and we can't ever change that.
Q. Can you put into context how difficult it is? On one hand, we exalt you as being one of the most intimidating presence in the game. Then when this sort of thing happens, we say why did it happen like that? Is it difficult to play under those circumstances?
CHRIS PRONGER: No, I don't think so. I think you kind of get used to it. I've always been one of the bigger players on the ice. You kind of get used to that.
As Brian alluded to, it's tough when you're hitting shorter guys, whether it be elbows or shoulders to the head or whatever the case may be. It's difficult to get down to that level.
But as I said earlier, I've got to play with a certain edge and a certain style of play to be effective and play to the highest level I can. And I don't think I can change that to be the type of player I am.
Q. What was the reaction, defense Colin gave to you for not suspending or reviewing the Chris Neil hit?
BRIAN BURKE: He didn't give me one.
Q. He brought it up?
BRIAN BURKE: I brought it up.
Q. He didn't say anything back?
BRIAN BURKE: He said the player wasn't injured, so mind my own business. Obviously I didn't share that view.
Q. Chris, were you aware it was McAmmond and had something been going on between you guys before that?
CHRIS PRONGER: No.
FRANK BROWN: Thank you.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦