I’ve been lucky enough to interview Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Pronger a few times over the years. And I’ve always found him to be extremely considerate, and a student of the game – not only the game, but the business of the game.
And if you’ve been on Twitter lately, you may have seen Pronger – now with more than 100,000 followers, and counting – take a prominent place in your timeline.
Why? Not because he’s talking about his on-ice experiences, although he could likely get just as big a following if he did. No, the reason Pronger is making headlines is his lessons about the financial realities of being an NHLer. If you haven’t seen his Tweets, you can start his latest thread by clicking below.
Pronger earned much praise in his playing days because he was a nimble, crafty competitor who really didn’t care about any detractors. He played his game, his way, and he won a Stanley Cup, a Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, a Norris Trophy as top NHL blueliner, and two Olympic gold medals. To his opponents, he was unrelentingly competitive. And now, he’s showing some of his natural ingenuity and fearlessness in his efforts to educate players and the public about the stark truth about hockey careers.
You may disagree with his opinion, or his tone; I had a brief Twitter conversation with one person who thought he was coming off whiny as a well-compensated athlete. I told them I disagreed, that Pronger was simply providing information about his experiences as a pro player, and letting it ripple through social media. Ideally, that’s what social media should be for – it allows us to hear the direct voice of a public figure, and gives us a chance to learn and evolve. You can’t read Pronger’s tweets and not come away feeling more educated about the hockey industry.
The truth is, hockey is in a bit of malaise when it comes to participating actively in the business. There are whispers from prominent hockey figures who see few players stepping up, and lament the lack of active and fully-aware NHL union members these days. That’s good news for NHL team owners, but not-so-good news for the Players’ Association. If you’re a player, you should want to have a thriving union – not only for your own benefit but for the good of all the young players who will follow you into the league.
Hockey has a well-earned reputation of repressing the individual in name of the team concept, and that’s an obstacle for players who want to publicly ask questions about their line of work. Without question, current NHLers who speak up will, almost instantly, be labeled as selfish or a distraction. That’s unfair. Employees in any profession should be allowed to inquire about their working relationship with the bosses.
Hopefully, Pronger’s Twitter activity inspires players to live smarter, and be more careful with their money. It’s true they hit the genetic jackpot to be the best hockey players on the planet, but that doesn’t mean they all have to be meek, or only casually interested in building a strong partnership with one another. They can be good at their primary job and at the same time be an active participant in the business side of the sport.
Pronger was an elite leader on the ice, and it’s terrific to see him translate that energy to helping players now. Fans of any player should want to see them succeed in their post-playing days, and Pronger’s advice can go a long way toward helping them out.