The 32-year-old star defenceman, now with Anaheim, plays in Edmonton on Tuesday for the first time since requesting to leave the Oilers after last season.
He’ll likely be booed all night. Even during Friday night’s win over Chicago, Edmonton fans booed when it was announced that the Oilers’ next game was against Anaheim.
Pronger was sensational in leading the Oilers to within one victory of a Stanley Cup championship last season. Acquired from St. Louis just after the lockout ended in August 2005, Pronger signed a US$31.25-million, five-year deal and looked set to anchor Edmonton’s blue-line into the next decade.
But citing family reasons, the six-foot-six, 220-pound Pronger asked for a trade right after last June’s Stanley Cup final, shocking and angering Oilers fans. Message boards and blogs were flooded with rumours and attacks on the former Hart Trophy winner for turning his back on the NHL club.
Pronger got his wish July 3 when Anaheim gave up winger Joffrey Lupul, defenceman Ladislav Smid, the ninth overall selection in the 2004 draft, a first-round draft choice in 2007, a conditional first-round pick and a second-round draft choice in 2008.
The 32-year-old native of Dryden, Ont., is off to a great start this season, putting up 26 points (4-22) in 25 games, tops among all NHL defencemen. His plus-16 rating is second only to the plus-22 of Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom.
Pronger returned to play Hartford with the Blues in 1995-96 and then returned to St. Louis with the Oilers last season.
“With the Hartford situation, obviously you want to play well and you want to win and show them up,” Pronger told reporters in Anaheim on Sunday night. “I scored a goal in that one. The St. Louis one, I think we beat them 7-2. So you always want to get off on the right foot, especially when you go into the other team’s building.
“You know the fans will be on you, so it’s never easy. So we’ll see how it goes. It’ll be nice to go up there and enjoy the crowd. The fans treated me great when I was there.”