It has been 473 days since Chris Pronger last appeared in a Flyers uniform, though it feels much longer since his in-your-face personality has bellowed through the halls of the Flyers’ practice facility.
Pronger has not played since Nov. 11, 2011. We explained in September why he will never play again.
Pronger, 38, has understandably not addressed the media or the public about his ultimate career-ending eye injury until now. There isn’t much he’s allowed to say.
He gave his first interview to close family friend, Rogers Sportsnet analyst Dan Murphy in a two-part series which will air beginning Wednesday night in Canada. Murphy recently finished a book with Pronger’s younger brother, Sean, called “Journeyman.”
Pronger was struck in the eye on Oct. 24, 2011 against the Maple Leafs, when Mikhail Grabovski’s errant stick caught him. His reaction was not all that different from the one you saw Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, when Marc Staal writhed on the ice in pain. Pronger’s painful shrieks were audible from the press box, in an ultra-quiet Wells Fargo Center.
It was a sound you never forget as a journalist, one that still gives you chills. He never recovered from that stick to the eye, which may have resulted in an ocular-nerve concussion, and returned too soon.
“What happened was, I had 30-year-old eyes. I got hit and the doctor told me I had 60-year-old eyes,” Pronger said. “I don’t have very good peripheral vision. That so-called sixth sense? I used to have a really good one. Now, I couldn’t feel anyone coming around a corner.
“My kids scare me all the time.”
Pronger’s interview, according to those who have seen it, is “absent of his trademark swagger.”
The comments help explain why we’ve only seen him wearing glasses, such as when he was helping with scouting at the Flyers’ training camp in January or being honored at the Blues game in St. Louis last Thursday. Pronger and his family, including wife Lauren, sons George and Jack and daughter Lilah, moved back to the St. Louis-area last season.
Pronger gave an update on his status, which doesn’t make living everyday life seem all that easy. Why hasn’t he come back to hockey? He’s got too much to lose. Pronger has made in excess of $100 million in his career. His kids are young. He’s won a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal and World Championships. He is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. He played in 1,340 games including playoff games and was one of the best defenseman of his generation.
He’d likely fall among the Top 10 defenseman of all-time.
“It’s gotten a little better. I can leave the house and go do stuff,” Pronger told Sportsnet. “If I do too much, I may get a headache. Occasionally, if I start to feel a bit better and I do a bit more, I get nauseous.
“Everyone wants to go out like a John Elway, where he wins two Super Bowls and retires on his own terms. Very, very few people get a chance to do that.”
The first part of Murphy’s sit-down interview airs Wednesday night on “Connected” on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. We’ll post it here if we receive permission to share.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers