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Canadian Press
Nov 28, 2006, 10:37 PM EST


EDMONTON (CP) - Oilers fans loudly booed Chris Pronger - and anyone who looked like him - as the maligned star defenceman made his return to Edmonton.

Pronger skated out to a chorus of boos Tuesday as he made his first return trip to the Alberta capital since leaving the Oilers this spring following a shocking and publicly unexplained trade demand.

The 32-year-old former Hart Trophy winner was razzed every time he hopped the boards during the game and Edmonton's fired-up fans even gave the business to his teammates Samuel Pahlsson and Joe DiPenta when they momentarily mistook them for Rexall Place's newest pinata.

Fans felt angry and betrayed by the six-foot-six, 220-pound Pronger, who was the driving force behind an Oiler team that came to within one game of winning last spring's Stanley Cup.

On Tuesday, they made the most of their first chance to reply when he jumped on the ice for pre-game warmup.

Fans in Oiler jerseys and garish blue wigs booed him when he touched the puck, rising up to shout "You suck!" and flash homemade signs in angry shades of neon green and orange as the helmetless defenceman swooped near the Plexiglas in his white jersey with the trademark duck-webbed D. The signs were comical to angry:

"Tell the Truth, Chris," read one.

"Millwoods Hates Chris."

"I made this Chris Pronger Sucks Sign for 'Personal Reasons."'

"The Gap in Your Story is Bigger Than the Gap in Your Teeth."

"Chris: 1985 Phoned; They Want Their Hair Back."

Even Pronger sympathizers were abused, particularly the man in the Raffi Torres jersey who held up a green sign that read "Thank You Chris" in a yellow sunburst.

"Put that down, you loser!" shouted a voice from above.

Most of the signs were quickly removed by security staff in keeping with the building's family friendly sign policy.

The sunburst got to stay.

As the puck dropped, fans in the sold-out crowd resumed their "Pronger Sucks" chants to go with a hearty round of "You Sold Out", a long drawn-out "Prawwwwwwwngerrrrr!" and a rendition of "Pronger's Wife!" in recogntion of the unconfirmed reports he left town because she didn't like Edmonton.

Pronger had been the talk of the city almost a week before the return trip. Fans began chanting "Pronger sucks!" in the closing minutes of last Friday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Airwaves and headlines were stoked with suggestions: boo him, throw pacifiers on the ice, burn your Pronger jersey, turn your back on him in pre-game warmup.

He arrived in Edmonton Monday from a balmy southern California to a city shivering in minus mid-20 C temperatures, with blowing snow and ice-slicked roads that resembled parking lots or bumper car rallies.

FULL STORY
 

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I know that Pronger technically sold-out but people have to remember that these guys are people too. They live their lives just like anyone else wants to. But when you drag a guys family into this it gets out of line. I know a lot of Canadians who have left Canada because of the weather. Players are treated unfairly by Media and fans alike. Players are not the pets of fans as much as they would like it to be. Fans just remember that players are like you with just a little higher paychecks.
 

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There are ways to leave a city graciously. It was a hard pill for Oiler fans due to the circumstances.

a) it was a shock, came out of nowhere
b) he signed a FIVE YEAR DEAL the previous summer. You don't do that if you don't plan on being there for at least half of it
c) when a player avoids the issue rather than deals with it it makes it even rougher on the diehard fans.
 
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