“Let the young man be who he is on the ice.”
Let me set the scene for you. Opening weekend at the brand-new gigantic Main Event family entertainment venue in Chesterfield, and you’ve chosen the laser tag for your first foray. Halfway into the session, you peer around a corner and suddenly lock eyes with former St. Louis Blues defenseman, Chris Pronger. While a little pee may exit the body next, a story will be born out of the fear.
16 years after last donning the Blue Note jersey, Pronger remains connected to the hometown that helped turn him into a star. Arguably the greatest blue line defender to ever play in St. Louis, Pronger is helping Main Event launch the new facility-the first of its kind in Chesterfield-this week. I had the chance to speak with him about sticking around, if he is still competitive off the ice, whether or not other cities treat ex-players like the Lou does, and his thoughts on the newly extended young defenseman, Colton Parayko.
They say you shouldn’t work on vacation, but I make exceptions for Hall of Famers. Scroll on for the full back-and-forth conversation.
STL Game Time: This new venue looks like a game-changer for St. Louis county.
Pronger: It provides a lot of functions for kids and adults. You see what Top Golf has out there. This adds another element: laser tag, bowling, arcade games, air hockey, and billiards. It’ll give more options for people in Chesterfield and people who drive through there, as well as helping neighborhood restaurants.
STL Game Time: When it comes to something like air hockey, are you still as competitive as you were when you were clearing the crease for the Blue Note back in the day?
Pronger: No. There is nothing I do that is not competitive (cackles loudly). There are no freebies when it comes to games: whether it’s UNO, bowling, you name it. Laser tag. Everybody is fair game. No matter the game, you play to win.
STL Game Time: If you had to take one Blues alumni to this Main Event complex, and you’re going all day and night, who are you taking with you?
Pronger: I’d take Bobby Gassoff, especially in laser tag. If you want to keep it fun, I’ll bring my old backup goaltender with me in Jamie McLennon, and let him clear some space for me.”
STL Game Time: How important is it to you to stay connected to the St. Louis community?
Pronger: It’s kind of both ways. Having married a girl from the city obviously is a draw and brings you back. But it’s the people and the city. They welcome you with open arms here, making you a member of the community. People really take to you, and take the time and energy to get to know you. Suddenly, it takes on another role.
STL Game Time: Is it like this anywhere else, around the country or world?
Pronger: No, it’s few and far between. That’s what’s great about this organization and city with alumni and current players. I’m beloved in this city and welcomed with open arms. When you look around the league, there’s very few who rival what we’ve been able to do here with the alumni. There’s 65+ guys who have moved back to St. Louis and lived here full time. That speaks very highly of the city and the organization.
STL Game Time: Is there anything about the game you miss?
Pronger: You know what man, I’m all set (with a sure laugh). I’ve been there and done that. I’ve gotten old enough, almost 47, and have had my day. I like seeing the youth in today’s game take hold and continue to grow it. Just much like the players before me and immediately after me, they create new legacies and traditions for the sport.
STL Game Time: One player that reminds me of you is Colton Parayko. What would you say he has to do to take his game to the next level?
Pronger: I think people need to lay off this poor kid. Everybody wants to pigeonhole him into what they want him to be, instead of who he is. He’s old enough now that it’s hard to change the spots on a leopard. You have to let him be who he is. He plays with a little bit of an edge, and people need to allow him to develop in his own way and play the game the way he knows how to play the game.
I grew up playing the way I did my whole life. It’s not just something where I flipped the switch… that’s how I played since I was 5. It was bred into me to play with fire and aggression, and it’s the only way I know how to play the game. It’s really something where people need to enjoy what they have and who he is, and how he plays the game. Stop trying to make him do things he’s not able to do.
If there’s one player I would listen to about Parayko, it’s Pronger. He knows the game and position, as well as what it takes to win in this city, better than most.
Now, if you had to choose one person to be on your laser tag team, I think the obvious choice is #44.
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