Blues’ Pronger Watches
Everblades, Salmon Kings

By Andy Kent
Naples Daily News

ESTERO, Fla. — Now that there is no NHL season, the players, coaches and general managers have had to find ways to keep busy.

On Tuesday night, St. Louis Blues defenseman Chris Pronger was at Germain Arena with his father-in-law as spectators watching the Florida Everblades and Victoria Salmon Kings play in an ECHL game. Pronger’s in-laws have a winter residence in Naples.

He wasn’t the only NHL representative on hand. Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Jay Feaster and Chris Gratton of the Colorado Avalanche also were there taking a look at some of the minor-league talent on the ice.

The only player Pronger had direct knowledge of was Salmon Kings defenseman Brandon Elliot, who lost a second-period fight to Florida’s Bryce Charpentier. Elliot played for the same junior team as Pronger, the Mississauga Ice Dogs.

“It’s tough to watch at this time,” said Pronger, who was a first-round draft pick of the Hartford Whalers, who are now the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida’s parent organization, in 1993. “You see plays and the hits, certain plays give you the itch once in a while but our time will come soon enough.”

Pronger, who at 6-6 and 218 pounds is one of the more imposing defensemen in the NHL, has been spending his free time staying in shape and doing, “daddy day care, changing diapers and that kind of stuff. It’s a lot of at-home time you don’t normally get during the winter, that’s for sure.”

Although many hockey insiders have been pessimistic about there being a resolution in time for the 2005-06 season, Pronger still is holding out hope. He feels more for the other workers at arenas, surrounding restaurants and hotels and other businesses feeling the effects of the lockout.

As for what needs to be done to fix the game, he’s not exactly sure, but he has some ideas.

“Well you’d like to think that talking right now will open up the lines of communication,” Pronger said. “And now that we’ve shown that everybody’s serious and they mean business, they’ll be able to come to the table now and both sides are going to have their high points that are non-negotiable if you will. It’s a matter of talking it through and coming up with different ideas that may or may not work.”

If a resolution is found, Pronger and the other players are looking forward to getting back out on the ice.

“We’ll be able to hopefully get back to doing what we do best and that’s trying to entertain and play some hockey,” he said. “And hopefully we can make sure the game is prosperous for both sides, then everybody can be happy and we can hopefully put this last year behind us.”

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