Mrs. Pronger will take heat

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Jessie Conroy knows all about how traumatic it can be for a hockey wife to change cities.

In fact, the day her husband Craig got traded to Calgary in 2001, she recalls being devastated.

"I cried for probably two straight weeks because I didn't even know where it was on the map," Jessie said yesterday from the couple's summer home in New York.

"But I was pleasantly surprised when I got there and thought it was a great place to live.

"We loved our school, our neighbourhood ... it was all so easy. So much so, I cried for two weeks after we left."

Conroy's Western Canadian experience was much different than that of friend Lauren Pronger, a fellow American who also moved to Alberta via St. Louis when husband Chris became an Oiler last summer.

Indications are Lauren didn't like living in the provincial capital, prompting Chris to make a trade request that became public knowledge just over a week ago.

Locals took the news like a kick in the teeth, making the St. Louis socialite Public Enemy No. 1.

"I spoke to her about a month before the regular season ended and I knew the backlash was going to happen, especially in Canada because they're so passionate," said Jessie.

"Lauren is such a sweet person. She's taking the heat but she's probably OK with that."

No one knows how Lauren or Chris feel about it as the couple has been in Mexico since the day Pronger's agent confirmed the star defenceman wasn't the one behind the trade demand.

"I think they both knew the criticism was going to come and they were prepared for it," said Jessie.

"I'm sure it will blow over."

Not in Edmonton, it won't. The it's-not-you-it's-me tone Pronger's agent delivered will sink No. 44 (and his wife) lower than Mike Comrie on the popularity scale.

Conversely, the Conroys left here in 2004 after a three-and-a-half year stay in which Jessie figured most players' wives found Calgary to be a great home.

"The group of girls I was with there loved it. Some said, 'I would just love for my husband to play his whole career here,' " recalled Jessie, who moved to California two years ago when Craig signed a no-brainer free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Kings.

"There are a few wives -- more Americans -- coming from big cities who didn't like it. I'm not naming names but they're more big-city people. I'm from a small town, so (Calgary) was like a big city to me."

Pointing out Calgary is a particularly desirable destination for families with children, Jessie said her nine-year-old daughter was forever changed by her time in Calgary.

"Last week they finished school and we got their journals. Our daughter Taylor wrote that if she could live anywhere in the world, except Manhattan Beach, it would be Calgary, Alberta," said Jessie, laughing.

"Living there is what got her interested in Craig's career. She gets on the computer when she gets up and reads NHL.com. At games, she paints her face. It all started with the excitement of that playoff run. Back then, if Craig pulled up at school to pick her up, the whole school cheered."

Accepting of the fact players' wives have very little say in where their hubby plies his trade, Jessie is not surprised to see the venom being directed at one wife who appears to be taking a stand.

"I must admit as great as Calgary is, I don't know about Edmonton," said Jessie, suggesting she couldn't handle taking the heat on Lauren.

"Personally, I'd be in Mexico and stay there."

Lauren might just be thinking the same thing.


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