ST. LOUIS — The fans packed the Enterprise Center early on Monday night to see former Blues defenseman Chris Pronger's No. 44 raised to the rafters. And Pronger showed just how much he appreciated them over his career.
"And to you all...," Pronger said to the fans during the number retirement ceremony. "From boos to cheers you always showed passion for the game, for my style of play and I thank you very much for helping to mold me into the man that I've become. A young 20 year old when I got here in the favorite trade for Shanny... Leaving a man at 30 with two kids, soon to be three and a wife. When you play in a city for 10 years and move back to a city, I've been here now 10 more years and think about my hometown of Dryden, I lived there 15. So this is my new adopted home, being here now 20 years. You always motived me to play harder, pushed me to be my best and held me to a standard that I relished and tried to match. So cheers to you all, thank you for coming, thank you for having me. Let's watch it go up. Cheers. Thank you all."
And as Pronger finished his thank you to the fans, he chugged the rest of his bottle of Bud Light on hand that he had teased the crowd with near the end of his speech.
Pronger's No. 44 will join Al MacInnis (No 2), Bob Gassoff (No. 3), Bob Plager (No. 5), Barclay Plager (No. 8), Brian Sutter (No. 11), Brett Hull (No. 16) and Bernie Federko (No. 24) in the rafters at Enterprise Center.
Pronger got his own area in the rafters on Monday, but soon he'll be moved alongside those legends. The honor is not lost on the hockey great.
"Seeing it go up, I think it'll be a lot different seeing it beside the other numbers. But seeing it raised to the rafters is obviously very special," Pronger said after the ceremony. "Being able to look around and see friends and people that you've seen from when I was playing here... A lot of the same fan base is still around. It's exciting, it's emotional but I don't think it will really kick in until it's in its rightful place."
Pronger came to the Blues in 1995 in a trade with the Hartford Whalers for Brendan Shanahan. He spent nine seasons in St. Louis, where the defenseman garnered a reputation as one of the toughest and talented players in the league. Pronger won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's MVP in 1999-2000. He was the first defenseman since Bobby Orr in 1971-1972 to win MVP. No defenseman has done it since Pronger did.