Chris Pronger admired the Ducks' talent when he and the Edmonton Oilers defeated Anaheim in the 2006 Western Conference finals. When he was traded to the Ducks a few months later, he brought the physical element they needed to become champions in 2007.
"Scott Niedermayer was the only one who had won a Stanley Cup and there was a few of us that had been to a final and lost," Pronger said. "There was just that burning desire and hunger to get back there and try to win one."
Pronger, one of the most feared but coveted defensemen of his generation, headlined a seven-person class elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. The group, which will be inducted Nov. 9 at a ceremony in Toronto, also includes in the players' category skillful forward Sergei Fedorov, creative defenseman Phil Housley, seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nick Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, and four-time U.S. Olympic women's medalist Angela Ruggiero of Simi Valley.
Elected in the builders' category were Bill Hay, a former NHL rookie of the year and former chairman of the Hall, and Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr., who for decades has been involved in youth hockey around his native Detroit.
Housley is the third-highest scorer among American players with 1,232 points over 23 NHL seasons. He retired in 2003. "I can't tell you how shocked, excited, extremely proud I am of being able to enter with all these players in this year's class and the past class," he said.
Lidstrom, a lock in his first year of eligibility, and Fedorov, who played 85 games for the Ducks, brought to nine the number of Hall of Famers from the Red Wings' 2002 championship team.
"I'm very excited and proud and honored to be going into the Hall of Fame with all the other great players," said Lidstrom, who spent his entire NHL career with Detroit and amassed 1,142 points in 1,564 games while winning four Cup championships.
Fedorov, who defected from Russia during the 1990 Goodwill Games, won three titles with Detroit. "I decided to move on, leave the country for the dream that I experienced in the NHL," he said.
Ruggiero, a member of the International Olympic Committee, was a rarity as a female hockey player as a child. "To be honest, I wanted to play for the L.A. Kings. I showed up to career day in the second grade with my hockey gear on," she said during a conference call with reporters. "I knew I wanted to play hockey, just didn't know where it would take me. However many years later I got to play in four Olympics and travel around the world and now here today be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Definitely something I couldn't have ever imagined."
Pronger, who works for the NHL's Department of Player Safety, last played for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011. He suffered a serious eye injury but didn't file retirement papers because that would have adversely affected the team's salary-cap status. The Flyers last week traded his contract and its $4.9-million annual salary cap hit through 2016-17 to Arizona, which needed to reach the salary floor of $52.8 million next season.
Pronger's role as a disciplinarian is interesting because he was suspended eight times as a player. Asked if any current player plays as he did, he laughed. "I don't know if you could. They might be in front of me if they did," he said.