Pronger public enemy No. 2

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Chris Pronger pretends to be surprised by his place among the NHL's most suspended, and some would say dirtiest, players.

Ask him about his seven career suspensions, second only to Chris Simon's eight, and his jaw drops in mock disbelief.

"Second all-time?," he says in an amazed tone. "I thought it would be (Bryan) Marchment?"

No, it's you. And given that Simon is playing on borrowed time while Pronger still has a lot of years left in those elbows, there's every chance he'll pass the troubled Islanders tough guy and move into first place overall.

NOTHING OUTLANDISH

But there's a difference, says Pronger, between outlandish acts of violence that are so far over the edge they warrant 25- and 30-game bans, and the grey area that he spends so much time in.

"We're talking number of times suspended, not games," he said, quick to point out that he's only been hit with more than two games once (four games for slashing Pat Peake on the throat in 1995). "Because my things weren't that bad. They were borderline calls. Sometimes I guess the league felt they needed to send a message, but I don't think it's ever been anything really blatant or malicious."

Dean McAmmond, who ended up unconscious in a corner after Pronger clubbed him with a forearm shiver during last year's Stanley Cup final, might disagree.

But Pronger assures most everyone he's ever wronged that it was nothing personal.

"When you're playing on the edge," he said. "Sometimes things happen out there."

Pronger has spent his entire career playing on the edge, crossing over it from time to time when he felt it necessary to get his point across. The point being: stay away from me.

"I learned early on that you need to be unpredictable," said the six-foot-six, 215 pounder.

"It gives you that extra space and it also makes players leery when they're coming down on you. Not so much nowadays, but earlier in my career if a guy went wide on me he doesn't know if he's going to get chopped, speared, hit, what have you."

"Today, that part of the game is gone, but there are still ways you can get the message out."

Ask McAmmond.

Pronger is talented enough that he doesn't have to play with a mean streak, he does it because he wants to. And it's served him well.

NO APOLOGIZES

"I'm not going to apologize for anything I've done because you know what, that's the game, bud. It's part of the game. And it's not like people haven't taken suspensions on me. I get cheap shotted just like the rest of the guys out there. So you know what, sometimes it's payback."

In Simon's case, the wires in his brain short circuit and he loses control. In Pronger's case, it's all cold and calculated stuff. Push the physical envelope as far as you can, as often as you can, and sometimes you'll get away with it and sometimes you won't. Either way, the other guys will think twice about going into your corner or hanging out in your slot.

"They can," said Pronger. "But they just might have to pay the price."


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