Oh sure, Letterman and Madonna are always flashing those pearly whites, and a gap between her teeth never limited Lauren Hutton, but for the rest of us it’s just another way to build character.
Yet for Chris Pronger it’s more about being a character as it is showing character. And certainly both traits are in full force for the spiritual leader of the Stanley Cup Final bound Flyers. See, Pronger has no problem flashing a goofy, gap-toothed grin because maybe it’s a prideful thing for a professional hockey player. More than 16 tears into his NHL career, Pronger still has his teeth and he has a tough time refraining from showing them off.
How do we know they are real? Simple… who gets crooked false teeth with a gap between the front ones? Remember that classic, toothless smile Bobby Clarke beamed while gripping the Stanley Cup circa 1974? Yeah, well take a look at Clarkie’s smile now—they’re straight as an arrow and whiter than a model in toothpaste commercial.
So what’s the deal with Pronger and that wacky sense of humor that makes him want to show off those chiclets? Is the guy ever serious, or is it that he just can’t help himself? Whatever it is, good or bad, it’s as clear as that goofy smile that Chris Pronger loves to play hockey.
“You can’t get too focused on one game,” Pronger said, flashing a wry smile at a reporter. Then again, that’s pretty much how every interview with Pronger goes. They are partially a battle of wits mixed with an exhibition of ironic humor and some astute hockey knowledge mixed in. The guy knows how to work a room and wear you down.
The funny thing about that is it’s almost exactly like Pronger’s style on the ice. Maybe a player can’t get too focused on the ice, but for the playoff veteran, his intensity is as sharp as a laser. Over the course of a long series, chances are Pronger will just wear out the opposition. Considering that he has been is playing a league-leading 28:48 of ice time per game and is one of three players to average better than four minutes a game on the power play (4:30) and penalty kill (4:25) throughout the playoffs, Pronger knows a thing or two about how to focus.
Exemplifying this point is that during these playoffs, the Flyers are 8-0 after Game 3s. Don’t think that this doesn’t have something to do with Pronger back on the blue line.
“He's a big body right there on the ice,” teammate Simon Gagne said. “He’s tough to beat one-on-one. He blocks shots and plays very well on the power play. He’s the full package. Now that it’s playoff time, he's able to play more minutes right now.”
The result is that 8-0 as a series wears on, and a down-to-earth perspective that seems a bit extraordinary for a guy with two Olympic gold medals, a Hart Trophy, a Stanley Cup and a chance to add a second one with his third appearance in the finals with his third different team.
When the Flyers traded for him, a lot of hockey pundits penciled the team into the Stanley Cup Final. But after a disappointing regular season that saw the team sneak into the playoffs by the skin of their crooked teeth, it’s hard to be surprised that the team has come this far.
Some have labeled this “The Pronger Effect.” For whatever reason Pronger’s teams are always a tough out this time of year.
“He’s the one guy I want to be playing with, not against,” forward Danny Briere said.
Well, yeah. Considering that Pronger is often voted as the league’s dirtiest player, he’s not one to tangle with. The same goes for reporters with questions, too. No matter what the circumstance, there will be a joust of some sort with Pronger stirring the pot.
Now how is it that he still has his real teeth?
Nevertheless, with an anticipated matchup with the Blackhawks’ 260-pound Dustin Byfuglien looming, Pronger has to be ready for some bone crunching and teeth rattling. But that’s the easy part. The difficulty for Pronger is trying to compare all three of the Stanley Cup Final clubs he’s played for.
The thing is, he says, the 2006 Edmonton Oilers, 2007 Anaheim Ducks and 2010 Flyers are all unique.
Do they have anything in common?
“No,” he said with the grin disappearing. “Each team has its own identity. Each team has to forge its own path.”
Once again, Pronger’s path has led him to another Stanley Cup Final. Funny how that happens.