By Adam Brady
He only spent a season and a half with the Ducks, but then again, Sean Pronger was never in one place for too long during his career. Sean, the older brother of former Duck defenseman Chris Pronger, played for sixteen teams in his 11 seasons of professional hockey. That voyage and the stories behind it are chronicled in his well-received memoir entitled Journeyman: The Many Triumphs (and Even More Numerous Defeats) of a Guy Who’s Seen Just About Everything in the Game of Hockey.
The book is currently available in hardcover on Amazon.ca (http://www.amazon.ca/Journeyman-Whos-Seen-Everything-Hockey/dp/0670065919) and as an eBook on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Journeyman-ebook/dp/B009GSGF1K).
The 40-year-old Pronger still lives in Orange County with his wife and two kids and started a sportswear company called JRNYMN (www.jrnymnwear.com). The affable Pronger, who occasionally skates with other Ducks alumni in the area, recently dropped by Honda Center to talk about what went into writing Journeyman.
Read an excerpt detailing the time Sean played on a line with Wayne Gretzky in practice … while hungover. http://deadspin.com/5974950/i-was-wayne-gretzkys-hungover-linemate-an-nhl-journeyman-picks-the-wrong-night-to-drink
How did the idea for the book come about?
When Chris was playing for the Ducks, he started ChrisPronger.com as a way to communicate with his fans. When he launched it, he wanted other people besides himself to provide content. He reached out to me and asked if I would write something for his website, and I said, “Absolutely not.” I was never an English guy in school. I was a math guy. I was not comfortable writing, so I said no. He kept bugging me for months and finally he wrote a blog about his experience in training camp. It was something like, “I can’t wait to go to camp, see the guys, go play golf, go to dinners, get my legs under me” and all that stuff. It was the complete opposite of my experience of training camp, which was miserable. I hated training camp. So, that kind of triggered something in me.
I started writing a blog about what it’s like for guys like me in camp and I signed it as The Journeyman. But what was great about a blog was the feedback you get is instant. People say, “You’re an idiot” or “That’s awesome” and that was kind of fueling the fire for me to do more. I did a few, and it got picked up by The Hockey News on their website, and I did some radio and TV shows. I stopped after a little while, but I kept writing on my own. It was almost therapeutic. I wrote about my first year as a pro and all of that and basically just let my buddies read it.
Then I was up in Vancouver for the Olympics in 2010 and my family and I stayed with my friend Dan Murphy, who works for the Canucks on their TV broadcasts. We were up late one night and I showed some of the blogs to him and he and his wife liked them. In August 2010, he met with a book agent who said they were always looking for hockey books. I sent him my unpublished blogs and he got back to me after a couple of days and said, “I think you’ve got something here.” Dan and I put together an outline, submitted it and we got offers from two publishers, and we went with Penguin Canada. I know it’s not supposed to be that easy to have a book published, but for us it was. But that’s when it got stressful because now we were on the hook.
How difficult was it to write?
The hard part is just the discipline to do it every day. I have a real job, then I’ve got a wife, kids, activities. Right when I just want to lie on the couch and not think, that’s when I’ve got to go hide somewhere and write for an hour or an hour-and-a-half at a time. Getting started was tough, but once I started getting something out of my head and on paper, I was off and running. I’d have nights where I was on the road for work and away from the family, so I was able to work a few hours at a time then. It was just the discipline to keep doing it every day. [Co-author] Dan travels with the Canucks, so he would have time on the plane to take what I’d written and work on it. That helped, having someone who I was working with that would keep me accountable. It was a good system. I’d write what I could, send it to him, he’d go over it, reorganize it, try to draw out more details from me, send it back to me, I’d revamp it again, send it back to him, he’d revamp it, then off to the editor.
The good thing was, we had a framework in place with the blogs, so that was a good starting point. From the time I met with the book agent to the time we submitted the final draft to the editor at Penguin was about six months. At first it was theme-based, but the editor thought it was read better chronologically, so we had to do a little reorganizing after submitting that final draft.
The hardest part for me when the book came out was the fact that not only did I write it, but this is my life. It’s like I’m opening my kimono to the world … or whoever buys it. That was the most unsettling feeling.
Was it difficult to recollect some of the old stories?
I’m a stickler for details, so I wanted to double-check everything. What was the score? What was the date? But once I started going down the road and put myself there, it all kind of came back to me. Also, doing the skates with the Ducks alumni – just being around hockey – helped as well. My best work was after we skated, because I’d come home and it would all come rushing back to me, just being in that environment.
What kind of stuff didn’t make it in to the book?
Everybody wonders about stories in the locker room and the road, and there are some stories. But I didn’t want it to be the kind of book where I couldn’t look someone in the eye, other than myself. There was a chapter in there that I thought was perfect, but for whatever reason the editor didn’t think it would fit. It was about my parents. It was basically a conversation they would have about whose game they would watch between Chris and me, when Chris was in St. Louis. So it was, “Let’s go visit one of the boys. I know Chris is playing the Red Wings and that’s a great rivalry. He’ll play 30 minutes a game and I’m sure he’ll have a box for us. We can stay in the west wing of the mansion. Or we can go visit Sean. I think he’s in Anaheim, but I’m not sure. Obviously we’ll get flight insurance if he gets sent down.” It was definitely a lot easier to go to Chris’ games. So, I had a whole chapter on that. I loved it, but I think they thought it took away from the storyline.
What has the response to the book been so far?
The response and the feedback has been overwhelmingly awesome. Everyone has been so great and said they really enjoyed it. It’s a different take on a hockey book, and that’s why the publisher wanted it. It’s not, “This is why I’m so awesome.” It’s more of “I’m just like everyone else and I bumble through life. These are things that happened to me along the way that you might not know.” You might think a guy is a loser out there because he never plays and gets sent to the minors. This is a story about one of those losers and what goes on and what it takes to get there. Maybe you might think differently of him and identify with the struggles. That’s what has resonated with people. The biggest thing I was worried about was how hockey guys would receive it. They’re on the inside and they know the goings-on. Guys have reached out and told me how much they enjoyed it, and that’s meant a lot.
What do you take away from your time with the Ducks?
It was a thrill. It was my first NHL experience where I was told I would stay for the year. To be part of a team that made the playoffs and the atmosphere of The Pond at the time, was unbelievable. That whole experience was great, and then the next year when I held out, it was just so completely not what I had envisioned throughout the summer. That summer seemed to last forever because every day I thought my phone would ring and it didn’t. It was a stressful time, and then thinking that everything you worked for was going to slip away. Going through the season was tough, and then to get traded right before the deadline was like, This is real. But I loved living here and I still live in the area. We’ve been here almost eight years, which is unbelievable since I’ve never been anywhere longer than, like, 18 months.
Would you ever want to write another book?
I really enjoyed it and I’d love to do it again. It’s just hard to find the time, because I have so much other stuff to do, and I find it exhausting. But I’ve enjoyed the process and I really like writing. I don’t think I could be a hard-hitting writer, because that takes so much research. This was just about me, so I didn’t have to look up too much. There are a couple of topics that I’ve batted around, like a sequel or my views on where the game is right now. I think I’ve got another one in me, but it’s just a matter of finding the time.
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