Chris Pronger wanted to know if a certain reporter was on the line during a conference call Thursday morning.

The Flyers' top defenseman had just been asked to respond to the recent finger-pointing at team captain Mike Richards, and as it turns out, he had taken offense to one story that questioned whether Richards would be better off by giving up the "C" on his jersey.

The reporter wasn't on the call, which, considering Pronger's response to the story, was probably a good thing.

"What good does that do?" Pronger asked, about the idea of Richards stepping down. "That is the most ridiculous thought I have heard yet."

"This is on-the-job training for Mike," he continued. "I was brought in to help him be a captain and do all the rest of that and kind of help with my experiences. I think I got here, he was 24. He's now 26. I think he's made some strides."

By now, the barrage of criticism aimed at the Flyers' captain is old news. He's been accused of immaturity, of heartlessness, of being "moody" in dealings with the media. His struggles have been well documented, especially over the past two seasons.

"I went through them as a young captain; I went through them as a player," Pronger said. "Getting booed, getting mouthed off walking out of the rink and wanting to fight guys after games and all the rest of it. It's not easy, especially on a team when the expectations are this high and the fans are this passionate."

On the surface, Pronger and Richards come off as complete opposites. Where Richards is quiet and introspective, Pronger's presence in any situation is immediately known – if not because of his size than certainly because of his volume.

But at 36, Pronger has had time to mature and develop into the player and the person he is. And, like Richards, he has learned how to be an NHL player by, well, being an NHL player.