THE MANY TRIUMPHS (AND EVEN MORE DEFEATS) OF A GUY WHO'S SEEN
Every young hockey player dreams of one day playing in the NHL, of skating on a line with his hero and drinking champagne in the dressing room after winning the Stanley Cup. But kids should watch what they wish for.
They may make it to the pros, like Sean Pronger, only to end up playing for sixteen teams over eleven seasons. They may end up on a team with a guy like the Great One, but skate on his line only in practice when the bona fide first-line centre has the flu. And they may end up drinking champagne only because their little brother wins the Stanley Cup.
Anyone who's gotten to the NHL the hard way has a story to tell.
No one knows the game better than the guys on the fourth line who fight for their jobs every night. They know all too well what it's like to watch from the press box or, worse, to be sent to the minors or traded. Sean Pronger has seen it all. He's played for legendary coaches like Pat Burns and gone head-to-head with guys such as Doug Gilmour and Steve Yzerman in the faceoff circle. He was on the ice for perhaps the most notorious violent attack in recent hockey history. While playing in the minors in Winnipeg, he guzzled beer in an ice-fishing hut with grizzled veterans like John MacLean, and while playing in Europe, he caused international incidents with guys such as Doug Weight.
Full of hilarious stories and self-deprecating jokes, Journeyman is a story not only about achieving a dream, but about realizing you've achieved it.
Where am I? How did I get here?
Before you jump to conclusions, let me clarify. No, I don’t have a concussion. And no, I’m not in jail (though getting out of here won’t be easy). Where I am is sitting on rented furniture in a room with a slanted floor and peeling walls, trying to figure out exactly how my dream of becoming a professional hockey player has turned into a nightmare.
Is it my black eye and broken nose? Maybe.
Is it the $500 a week I’m raking in playing in the East Coast Hockey League? Maybe.
Is it the unheated farmhouse on the outskirts of the hockey hotbed known as Knoxville, Tennessee, that I currently call home? Maybe.
Is it the eight-hour bus rides to go play a bunch of thugs who don’t even realize there’s a puck on the ice? Maybe.
Does the reason even matter?
I’m in a tailspin and I seriously don’t know if it’s worth the energy to try to pull out of it. Maybe it would be best if I just let my career (if you can call it that) go down in flames and take a different path.
I guess that mentality, more than anything, tells you just how bad it was. If a guy who’s spent his whole life either playing hockey or wishing he were playing hockey suddenly thinks...
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Sean Pronger grew up in Dryden, Ontario, and was drafted fifty-first overall by Vancouver in 1991. From 1995 to 2004 he played in the NHL for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Boston Bruins, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Vancouver Canucks. He played in 260 regular-season games, earning 23 goals and 36 assists for 59 points, picking up 159 penalty minutes. His brother is NHL defenceman Chris Pronger.