The career of Chris Pronger as a defenceman was absolutely legendary. As a professional hockey player, Pronger won the Norris Trophy and Hart Trophy as the league’s best defenseman and MVP with St. Louis in 2000, the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007, and the gold medal with Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Additionally, Chris Pronger was named one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players” of all time. In 2012, he was tragically injured by a stick to the eye and subsequently traumatically altered his life.
Even though Chris is considered a major success in the hockey world, it isn’t all that defines him. His other roles include father, husband, investor, and entrepreneur.
Chris Pronger and I talked in January 2022 about his playing days, investing strategies, and how he built a boutique luxury travel company. You won’t want to miss this episode of “Investing, Business, & Life Outside of Hockey!”
Don’t give up on your goals
“I think a lot of people go wrong as they reach forward with a goal like, ‘I want to get to the NHL,’ and that’s their only goal,” Chris Pronger said. “They don’t set another goal. They don’t say, okay, well, I’m here. Alright, I want to be a top-four defenseman. I want to be a top-two line forward. I want to be a 50-goal scorer. I want to be a Norris Trophy winner.” Chris mentioned that rather than set new goals, these people just arrive and then enjoy the ride.
“And I think early on in my life, I figured you’ve got to keep setting goals, and once you attain those goals, you’ve gotta keep moving the ladder and moving the rung of the ladder to get higher. Then, to try to achieve those higher goals, you must push yourself,” he adds.
Chris continues, “I think too often, we don’t push ourselves enough. And maybe I went even further and pushed myself too hard or too far. To be successful, however, you have to push yourself, discipline, boundaries, and know what you’re willing to sacrifice.”
“And I would say when you look at the greats of any game or any sport — sacrifice, discipline, and work ethic are the three most critical things that these individuals go through that allows them to get to where they are.” Chris continues. “Talent is, obviously, inherent and a part of it — but without those first three goals — the talent doesn’t really matter.”
When talking to Chris, I was reminded of this Walt Disney quote; “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” In fact, adversity is perceived as playing a crucial role in the success of most Olympic champions.
Chris Pronger tells us about how he was really “beloved” early on — but, just like all of us in whatever arena we end up in — Chris was booed and hated because he had come into a new place. “I was traded to St. Louis in 1995 as a young 20-year-old and was traded for a fan favorite and Brendan Shanahan, and I got booed every game,” Chris told me. “I was hated because I was the one who got traded for the guy, the other one.”
Just like any other undertaking in this life, Chris Pronger knew that he had to sacrifice and have discipline, and it is a sure thing that you will also face adversity before you are done. “You’re going to hit those forks in the road, and then you can cave and crumble, or you can push through and find a way and become successful,” he said.
Chris relates how very difficult his first year was with many sleepless nights, and to this day, he has a lot of painful memories. These memories include all those painful games, too. And similar to what Walt Disney said, Chris agrees, “that particular time in my life certainly made me stronger and gave me more character and more strength to push through the difficult moments in life you’re ultimately going to face as you get married, have kids, and go through a family process and all the rest of that.”
I loved that Chris pointed out that when you start making investments and making decisions of a higher caliber — you need to start relying on a lot of those decision-making skills. “A lot of things that you went through early on in your life, that ultimately help guide and steer you — you learned during the awful times,” shares Chris.
Taking a puck to the heart
In a game between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues on May 11, 1998, a puck slammed off Pronger’s chest. After falling down, he covered up the puck and got up. Pronger collapsed after two steps. For about 20 seconds, he was unconscious.
“We were playing a playoff game in Detroit, and the defenseman got the puck, and I went out to block the shot.,” he recalls. “I blocked a shot, and it hit me directly in the heart. And what happened was my heart was in between heartbeats. So, when the puck hit my heart, it triggered something in my brain to basically say, okay, the heartbeat, I skipped one heartbeat, and I got hit, and it hurt, and I was like, alright, you’re in Detroit, and I’m like — do not let these people see you laying on the ground.” Chris decided to cover the So, I’m like, puck up and get a whistle.”
Chris Pronger looked out and saw the bench was only about 30 feet away because they were playing in their corner and decided to head over there and sit down. He said, “So, in my head, I’m saying ‘get up,’ and I think I’m getting up, but I blacked out — and you could see my eyes are kind of out of it.” Chris stood up and thought he’d just skate over to the bench and rest — but down he went. Chris was suffering from commotio cordis arrhythmia. “My heartbeat skipped one beat, and that’s how much oxygen gets pushed through your body in one heartbeat. I didn’t have enough oxygen, and down I went.”
Of course, at the time, Chris was young and not worried about anything, and he didn’t take it seriously. He explained this concept to NHL.com. “But as time goes on, you read about these types of incidents and that kids die from it. I was lucky,” Chris says.
Chris is more than a hockey player
“Yeah, I was never a big fan of being called ‘Chris the Hockey Player.’ There’s so much more to life and so much more to myself and to what I bring to the table than just being ‘Chris, the Hockey Player,’ He told me. “Chris explains that he was so passionate about playing hockey for at least three hours every day and it’s your job to practice and play and do your best — but you have a massive amount of day left when all that is finished for the day.
Chris said that with everything that was happening, he felt like it would be smart for him to start learning about investing, learning about being an entrepreneur, “learning about business, learning about other things that interested me, while I was playing, while still being focused on my career, and knowing that that’s what the breadwinner needs to do.” Chris was grateful that he was good at hockey, but he also recognized that “at some point, my career will be over, and I’m not going to be a young man.”
Like all of us — Chris asked himself some poignant questions: “What’s next? And how do I get there? And what’s going to get me there?”
Creating a luxury travel company
“24 years ago, the hospitality space was pretty small as it relates to health and wellness,” Chris Pronger explains. “And so, my wife would source properties and things of that nature. And then when social media kicked on the final end of my career in Philly, she had a little social media account and private account with friends and family and followed some athletes and some entertainers.”
Suddenly Chris had interested individuals asking all kinds of questions like: Where do you source these properties? How did you find these? Chris’ wife just started just helping people out as a friend — setting up trips, and 20, 30 trips later — the light bulb moment went off. Chris said, “Okay, there’s something here.” He quickly realized, “There’s a trust factor here that bonds the ability to connect with people and understand what they’re going through, what they’re needing.”
Working as senior advisor to the GM in Florida, Chris really believed that he was merely helping to support his wife with her own passion. He worked to help her build out a business plan and offered to make some intro’s and connections for her. He was the guy that set up the golf trips, the fishing trips, the Super Bowl pool, and the Masters’ pool, and worked as a “quasi-event planner.” About this part of their lives, he says that he quite enjoyed the time and the “happiness that is extended through hospitality and talking to people — and just the joy.”
Beyond the Glamor of the Sport
Sports look so glamorous to all of us but Chris explains that when you’re right in the middle of your sports career, it’s kind of awful. “It is pretty negative. Only one team wins a year. So, you’re brokenhearted most the time — and it’s doing this one job for 30-plus years — and being told where to go, what to do, how to do it,” he adds.
One of the reasons I think Chris is so successful in his entrepreneurial career is that he and his wife know their client base inside and out. You have to know your clients and customers to be greatly successful. As a result of knowing what he knows about the life of one who has a career in sports, Chris comments, “We realized that our niche clients are athletes, entertainers, CEOs, business owners,” Chris elaborates. “And when you look at that niche clientele, our unique ability to understand the demands in their time, the pressures of the job, the fame, the fortune, the stress on home life, the pressure on kids — all of that stuff we’ve been through it, we understand it.”
Chris’ wife calls their business “matchmaking for travel.” “When we’re talking to our clients, we really get to know them on a much more personal level, and know the right question to ask — digging deep to figure out what they need, and where to steer them.” Of course, they can do this! They have both been there and know all sides of the issues surrounding their clients.
The company has now become a passion for Chris, and he hopes that his time with the Hartford Whalers, Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Ducks, and Philadelphia Flyers during his career will give him an advantage in working in the travel industry.
“Really, we kind of help (people) through a lot of what we learned on the fly and what we did in our own lives,” he told NBC Sports. “We’ve obviously been through a lot, both professionally and personally, and have a lot to offer and help guide and steer people.”
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Tony Schnagl; Pexels; Thank you!