When his playing days were done, Chris Pronger was invited down to South Florida to visit Florida Panthers executive Peter Luukku whom Pronger knew from his days with the Philadelphia Flyers.
While in Sunrise, the Hall of Fame defenseman met up with Dale Tallon a few times.
In his job with the NHL’s department of player safety, Pronger and Tallon had conversations. Soon, they would get to know each other better through rounds of golf.
Now, after weeks of speculation, the two are officially working together.
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Pronger has left his job with the league and will work as an advisor under Tallon. The hiring was announced Thursday from Florida’s draft headquarters in Chicago where Pronger is working with Tallon as the Panthers prepare for this weekend’s event.
Florida has the 10th overall pick in the 2017 draft which starts Friday at 7 p.m. at the United Center.
The Panthers have five picks on Saturday’s six-round finale.
“You have to start somewhere and I think the fit here is perfect,” said Pronger, 42, who played 1,167 games with Hartford, St. Louis, Edmonton, Anaheim and Philadelphia before retiring in 2012 because of concussion issues.
“Dale had a very nice sales pitch and I like the pieces in place here with the Panthers. There’s a very solid nucleus of players, a great foundation to build on. I can see great things for this team, it’s just a matter of putting the work boots on and supplementing those players with other pieces and help support them and get them to where they want to be.
“Our goal here is to win a Stanley Cup. It’s not going to happen overnight. You have to be patient, make the right moves. Hopefully I help with that.”
The Panthers’ front office now consists of Tallon, Pronger and assistant general managers Eric Joyce and Steve Werier.
Bryan McCabe, Florida’s former captain, was promoted to director of player personnel after spending five years in player development.
“We’re excited, thrilled and proud to add a Stanley Cup champion to the Florida Panthers family,” said Tallon, who added he likes hiring people “smarter than myself, to make myself look smarter.”
Tallon said he was impressed with Pronger’s smarts but also in his approach to people.
Pronger went viral last season when he checked pop superstar Justin Bieber into the glass at a celebrity game during All-Star festivities in Los Angeles.
On a conference call with media on Thursday, Pronger joked around yet was serious when it came to what he wants to do with his post-playing career.
Pronger said he wants to become a general manager himself one day and is ready to study under Tallon.
“I’ve gotten to know him for the last four or five years,” Tallon said, “and he has a lot to say. He doesn’t sugarcoat things. I like his approach and I like his knowledge. He’s opinionated and we like a staff that has opinions in them.”
Said Pronger: “I think [Tallon’s] track record speaks for itself, his ability to find talent and build teams. What he did here in Chicago has been well written about and he has put a lot of good pieces together. There’s a lot I hope to learn from him and hopefully I can add a fresh eye and help get where we hope to.”
Pronger’s resume is quite impressive.
Not only did he win the Stanley Cup alongside former Florida forward Shawn Thornton (who know works in the business side of the organization) with Anaheim in 2007, but he won a pair of Gold Medals with Team Canada at the Olympics.
Pronger is also a past league MVP and Norris Trophy winner.