Chris Pronger has a message for Edmonton: It's not you, it's me.
The soon-to-be ex-Oiler, through his agent Patrick Morris, wants the city and its hockey fans to know that he doesn't hate them.
He still wants out, but he doesn't hate you.
"He's a great player and the Oilers wanted this to last a long, long time, as Chris did," said Morris, who made Pronger's trade request public last Friday. "But at the same time I think they understand that people come before business and things have happened - not necessarily to change Chris's mind, but to change his ability to stay there."
See, it's not you, it's him.
Now, that's not exactly a unique breakup line - jilted ex-lovers whose partners tried to let them down easy have been hearing that excuse for centuries - but in this case, Morris swears it's true.
"Chris has nothing against the City of Edmonton. He enjoyed his time there and he's got nothing against the organization. He's very impressed with Kevin Lowe and Scott Howson and Kevin Prendergast. He was very impressed with Craig MacTavish and the coaching staff. He really liked his teammates and, more than anything, how can you not be embraced by the fans?
"If he could stay he would stay. And he would stay for the full five years."
(Pause for a dramatic "BUT.")
"But he can't."
FILED DIVORCE PAPERS
The reasons this seemingly perfect marriage between superstar defenceman and Stanley Cup finalist is headed for divorce are as vague as they were before the Mike Comrie saga (Comrie is probably the only one who's happy about all this because he moves to No. 2 on Edmonton's Most Hated depth chart).
Personal reasons. Can't get into it. Maybe it'll all come out later. Stop us if you've heard it before.
"Nobody is expecting every single person to understand," said Morris. "But if they were able to analyze the reasons with personal knowledge, maybe they would understand. These are personal issues that exist in a couple's circumstances."
When the principles won't talk, it's incumbent on us to speculate, and the speculation here is pretty simple:
If Pronger says he likes Edmonton, but has to leave for personal reasons, then the reasons aren't his. In which case, the spotlight falls on his wife, Lauren, or Yoko, as she's known in E-Town.
"To get into his reasons in detail would be unfair to the private nature of them," said Morris, who knows it's going to take a lot more than that to settle the angry masses. "It's hard. I can't be specific. But at the same time, in being generic, I know I'm leaving Chris open to commentary that isn't positive."
LOVE TO STAY ...
Morris says Pronger, vacationing in Mexico and none too eager to talk, is well aware of the venom.
"It's certainly an issue that was reviewed with him," he said.
"He can't control fans' emotions because, really, what they are is emotional reaction. All they sense is the guy doesn't like Edmonton. And that's not true."
It's not you, it's him.
"If people would just see that he chose to come there. He chose there for a reason. And he's choosing to leave not for a reason that has anything to do with his lack of passion for the city or his obligation to the team.
"Trust me, if it could continue it would and he would be the happier for it. But it can't. I know I'm being too vague in creating solutions that might let him off the hook a little, but from my knowledge, which is intimate, he has nothing against the city or the organization or the coaching staff or the fans in that building. He enjoyed himself there."
So now they wait, while GM Kevin Lowe tries to parlay the best defenceman in hockey into something that can keep Edmonton a contender. The Oilers sent out a text to the rest of the NHL Friday night announcing he was up for grabs.
"That created an avalanche of interest, but with absolutely no level of seriousness yet, from my understanding," said Morris. "The Oilers, arguably, want a very hefty price."
And won't make a move till it's met.
"Chris wants the Oilers to get fair value for him, but at the same time he would prefer, for everybody's sake, that this is over with sooner or later," said Morris. "But the Oilers control this and he understands that."