The Chicago Hitmen has announced that Steve Pronger has been hired as the team’s first head coach.
Pronger, a Windsor, Ontario, native, was the head coach of the minor
professional Chicago Blaze of the All American Hockey League (AAHL)
last season and prior to that was a coach with the Flint Generals of
the International Hockey League (IHL).
“In our inaugural season in the North American Hockey League, we felt we needed a coach with professional experience to take this team to the next level,” said Hitmen owner and president Mark Hammersmith. “With Steve’s background in professional, college and junior hockey, we felt that he was the perfect fit for the style we want to bring to Chicago: a fast-paced, hard-hitting and exciting brand of hockey.
During his second season in Flint, Pronger held the position of associate head coach and director of hockey operations. His first role with the Generals was that of assistant coach during the 2007-08 season, in which the AA affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings saw five players called up to various American Hockey League (AHL) teams that year.
“Steve’s philosophy was very similar to the original philosophy of the Chicago Force that (co-owner) Dick Glass and I had,” Hammersmith added. “We wanted to win, but our ultimate goal was to move players onto the next level, whatever it may be, college or professional.”
Prior to joining the Generals organization, Pronger served as an assistant coach with the University of Windsor men’s hockey team, which plays in the Ontario University Association of the CIS. During his two years with the Lancers, Pronger coached and shared in the development and mentoring of student-athletes while seeing a number move on to play professional hockey in the IHL, Central Hockey League (CHL) and European leagues after graduation.
After playing for St. Thomas in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, Pronger attended and received his Bachelors Degree from the University of Windsor. Coaching in his former minor hockey association, he ultimately guided the Midget AAA program of the Windsor Jr. Spitfires to many tournament wins and its only OHL Cup tournament appearance (Ontario Minor Midget Championship) in its history.
In addition, many players from Pronger’s programs were selected in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) draft to play in the top junior league in Canada. Matt Martin of the Sarnia Sting, who was drafted in 2008 by the New York Islanders, and Zach Kassian of the Windsor Spitfires, who was drafted last June in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres, are the most recent graduates to the NHL from Pronger’s former programs.
Pronger has been involved with the Under-16 and Under-17 programs in Ontario as a coach and evaluator, helping many young players advance through into the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence. These OHL players, while playing for Team Ontario, won the 2007 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge in London, Ontario.
In addition, each summer, the High Performance 1 (Hockey Canada) and USA Hockey Advanced Level coach serves as a course instructor and facilitator for Alliance Hockey Ontario, where he delivers coaching clinics to new coaches and those coaches new to travel hockey.
Pronger has also been a seminar presenter at a USA Hockey Level 4 clinic in Michigan.