Puck Daddy - NHL

Following up on the controversy over Chris Pronger's puck thievery in Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, TSN's Darren Dreger reported that Philadelphia Flyers winger Darroll Powe(notes) located the game puck and gave it to Claude Giroux(notes), who scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 in overtime.

Did that end the questions Pronger had to face about his puck provocation? Of course not, as the Flyers defenseman had an acrimonious exchange with the media about it again Thursday afternoon, ending his press conference on a cantankerous note:

Complaining about use of the word "steal," asking for a rulebook to clarify whether the winning team gets to keep the puck ... classic Chris Pronger(notes), playing the role of Chris Pronger.

But as a teammate pointed out Thursday, that role may be why the Flyers are back in this series.

Many of us assumed that Pronger's puck-snatching and subsequent "I threw it in the garbage" admission was actually a leadership tactic, and that's how Danny Briere(notes) of the Flyers saw it too:

"You look at him and you realize he's been there before. He knows what he's doing. Took a lot of the pressure away from his teammates with the puck situation. I don't know if it was really on purpose or if it's Eager. Ben Eager(notes) that made it bigger than it really was. I don't know. He just seems very sure of himself, and it trickles down to the rest of the team, I believe. But his play has been amazing."

When Pronger does what he does, it steals the spotlight and drains the pressure for his teammates — while at the same agitating the hell out of opponents.

Here's Pronger discussing how Chicago Blackhawks fans see him as a villain, and what he thinks of that characterization:

Once more, with feeling:

"I think we all undertand the game is there for good entertainment. People are paying a lot of money to see a good game. If they want to love to hate somebody, then so be it."

Like we said the other day: He knows exactly who he is. He's not a creature of remorse, or one that will allow the sensitivities of others to modulate his behavior. Here's what it takes for Chris Pronger to apologize: Stomping on Ryan Kesler(notes) in the same year that Chris Simon(notes) was suspended for 30 games after stomping on Jarkko Ruutu(notes).

Yes, it took that level of bad PR for his team and the league.

His personal games with the media and opponents amuse him, and he assumes they amuse the same people who hiss the heels at wrestling matches ... as well as those who cheer the bad guys. That fact is that the NHL has wised up to his value as a devise player, promoting these press conferences on their website and treating Pronger as one of the biggest names in the series despite being a defensive player.

Two years later, Sean Avery(notes) looks like a genius. Remember this line from his ESPN interview:

"It would certainly be good for the game if we marketed the game. The NHL does a terrible job of marketing. They just ... they haven't figured it out that heroes and villains are what sells."

The players who speak to the media during the finals each have their own video clips. Pronger has one too ... along with three others that are isolated as "sound bites" by the NHL.

When the villain speaks, the NHL thinks you should listen. Maybe it's finally understanding the dramatic dynamics of good vs. evil that have been the easiest sell in the history of entertainment but lost on the NHL for decades.

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