More than seven years after his last game as a professional hockey player, Sean Pronger put his life on paper in his new book, “Journeyman,” which chronicles his journey in and out of the NHL.
Journeyman, co-authored by Sportsnet broadcaster Dan Murphy, takes readers back in time with Pronger through the good and the bad—to moments where he wished he could change, to memories of what every aspiring hockey player hopes to hear—their name being called at the NHL Entry Draft.
A journeyman, Pronger says, is “when you’ve acquired a certain expertise and then you go from job to job doing it. People call sports figures that go from team to team to team a journeyman.”
The title of the book, “Journeyman” is fitting—he played on 16 teams over the course of 11 years, taking him across the U.S., Canada, and even Europe.
He spent four years at Bowling Green State University, studying business while also playing hockey. By 1991, he was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks. From there he spent time in five different leagues: the IHL, ECHL, NHL (Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins, NY Rangers, LA Kings, Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Canucks), AHL, and DEL (in Europe).
He played 13 games for the Kings during the 1998-99 season.
“There were a lot of guys on that team that I grew up watching, you got Ray Ferraro, Russ Courtnall, Gary Galley, Rob Blake and Luc Robitaille —Larry Robinson was coach—he was one of my idols growing up so it was a real thrill when I got here to just be a part of that team,” he said. “It was unfortunate we struggled and didn’t make the playoffs. It was a thrill to be able to play with all those guys that for the most part I grew up watching.”
Today, Sean Pronger works in the financial service industry in sales and lives in Southern California, with his wife and two children. In addition to the book, he also created a clothing line, JRNYMN, which has been up and running online for almost a year and will be rolling out in Canadian stores this year.
Growing up in Dryden, Ontario, Canada, he started playing hockey when he was four-years-old with his younger brother, Chris (a Stanley Cup Champion and NHL All-Star who currently plays for the Philadelphia Flyers).
“We lived in a remote town that was cold and snowy for eight months of the year, so there really wasn’t much else to do,” he said. “The roads would be perfect because it’s cold and then cars would flatten the snow so it’s almost an icy type snow, and the puck would slide really good. We’d play games for hours after school.”
The idea of writing about his struggles as a professional athlete came after Sean started writing a blog on Chris’s website in 2008. Sean initially didn’t want to write the blog, but after reading Chris’s entry about his personal experience at training camp, Sean changed his mind.
“He (Chris) wrote a blog about how it was great coming back to see the guys and getting a skate in, getting a sweat on, getting my legs under me,” Pronger said. “That’s what training camp was like for him—when you’re an elite superstar player, it’s a little less stressful.”
“I thought this is the complete opposite of my experience, so I decided to write about what it’s like to go to training camp when you’re a guy like me—the mental pain and suffering that you go through everyday of training camp.”
He signed off the blog as “Journeyman,” and continued blogging until he stopped in early 2009.
“I actually enjoyed writing and I kept doing it on my own—I just wouldn’t publish any of it,” he said.
During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Pronger and his family stayed with Murphy and his wife, and he showed them his blog entries.
“They really got a kick out of it and they thought it would be cool to write a book, and that was the extent of it,” he said. “But then to actually put pen to paper wasn’t something I planned on doing.”
By the fall of 2010, Pronger and Murphy worked together on an outline of the book and began sending it to different publishers.
For Pronger, the process of writing the book and re-living his career – the ups and the downs – proved to be therapeutic. The first chapter, “Blackout,” starts off at a low point, when he lived in an abandoned barn, with no heat, while playing in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I was just so young at the time and you just kind of plot ahead, one foot in front of the other, without thinking too far ahead,” he said. “Luckily I didn’t, otherwise I probably would have packed it in.”
The mental anguish of being a journeyman was something Pronger’s family didn’t know about.
“Their first reaction was, ‘hey, I just finished reading the book, I wish I knew that it was so painful for you,’” he said. “I got an email from my brother and then my mom basically saying that I wish you would have told us.”
“It was interesting that their take away from that was wishing I would have opened up more when I was going through it, but I just couldn’t. When you’re going through it, you just go through it.”
There were a few chapters that Pronger had a difficult time writing about.
“One of the harder chapters was writing about the birth of my daughter,” he said. “When you read it, you’ll understand why, but everything is good now. I’m glad I did it, but that one was pretty tough to write.”
Pronger says the writing process was a way for him to look back, reflect and re-live his experiences as a professional hockey player. It also made him realize his career was something to be proud of, and if he had the chance, he would do it all again.
“I had a couple times where I wish I could go back and change what I did,” he said. “I try not to live with any regrets and the decisions I made shape who and what I am.”
“I would like to think that I would do it again just because of the people I got to meet along the way. My childhood dream was to play in the NHL and I did that,” Pronger said.
Visit jrnymnwear.com for more information or to purchase the book or items from the JRNYMN clothing line.
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