In one breath Chris Pronger says this isn't goodbye. In the next, ironically, he makes it perfectly clear he won't be coming back to play for the Flyers.
Ironic because due to the severity of the eye injury he suffered from a stick in October 2011, along with subsequent concussions that continue to give him headaches on a regular basis, little in his life now is perfectly clear.
The 37- year-old Pronger, a former league MVP and five-time All-Star, spent just more than two years with the Flyers after coming over in a 2009 trade from Anaheim. On Thursday, Pronger admitted he still gets symptoms after any strenuous activity. He can't run or make any sudden movements, let alone skate and absorb contact from all angles.
His peripheral vision, or what he refers to as his "sixth sense" of knowing who is around him and anticipating what's about to happen next, is gone. He experiences headaches, fatigue and dizziness often without warning. Not only that, but doctors tell him there's little chance his vision will improve.
Yet largely because the Flyers are still on the hook for three more years and $18 million, thanks to the way the NHL salary cap is configured, it works to the team's benefit to keep his status open. That means Pronger won't officially retire.
"I am presently trying to get healthy and work towards it [playing again],'' said Pronger, publicly addressing his condition for the first time in well over a year. "I still have symptoms with loud noises and a lot of moving parts. It's not to the level it was, but I still get them. My doctor says I have significant vulnerabilities he's worried about which may or may not go away. Once I continue with my rehab, we'll see where we're at."
While that may sound a tinge hopeful, Pronger realizes there are no miracles that will resuscitate his brilliant career that includes winning a Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals. He's just relieved the bouts of depression that he admits left him in a "dark place" — yet never to the extent he considered doing something drastic — have subsided. Now his goal is to get as healthy as possible and be a good husband and father.
"Things happen for a reason," said Pronger, who has done some scouting for the Flyers, though he doesn't seem to think it's a long-term option. "I don't wallow in, 'Why me?' now, though I'm sure I did for a few months. Eventually you have to turn the page."
Even though he refuses to admit it, unofficially it's apparent Chris Pronger finally has.