After the stroke, Brian Propp said, he could only say two words. Really, three, except the second and third words could be considered together as one, at least around here.
“I couldn’t talk for three months,’’ Propp said of his 2015 stroke. Except for those words. “And and Bernie Parent.”
There is something endearing about that, a Flyers hall of famer only being able to say the name of a Flyers great.
“It just came to me -- I don’t know why,’’ Propp said at a media gathering before the banquet at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill. “I couldn’t even say my family’s names. It just kind of popped in my head. I still work with him. Maybe it’s the same initials, BP. He gets a kick out of that.”
Monday night, Propp was named the winner of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s most courageous award, for his comeback from the stroke, and his willingness to be open about it -- which is to say, be himself about it.
“I was kind of surprised because it’s been like three years since I had my stroke,’’ Propp said. “It’s such an honor for me, because of how it’s helpful for people who have had strokes.”
There are still issues, he said. His right arm and hand don’t work like they used to. The golf ball doesn’t go as far.
“My speech is affected,’’ Propp said. “I get mixed up. I have to slow it down to talk a little better.”
You catch that sometimes, how he might need a second or third try to nail the exact word. He jokes about how now he has an excuse for hazy memories.
Before the massive stroke suffered on a family vacation in Annapolis, Md., when he had dropped in his hotel room, knocking out a couple of teeth, Propp figured he probably had atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, for a couple of years. Ten years earlier, he’d had a heart ablation, correcting a heart rhythm issue.
“I didn’t realize it because I still skate and I’m in pretty good shape,’’ Propp said.
A week before the Annapolis trip, he’d gone to the hospital, not feeling well. But he wanted to be on that trip.
“My children were going to college -- I wanted to take that trip with them,’’ Propp said. “Thankfully, my family was there.”
After the stroke, his speech therapist was great, he said. You don’t know what’s going on, you need a lot of help.
“I’m always very positive,’’ Propp said. “But it was very frustrating, because I wanted things to happen a lot quicker. I’m very lucky that my feet and hands aren’t more affected. I don’t have balance problems.”
The whole Flyers alumni group, of which Propp is a central connecting figure, has been real supportive, he said.
“I was kind of quiet for a year after that,’’ Propp said. “I was in the hospital for six weeks, then I was another year five days a week [doing rehab].”
Stem-cell treatment through an NHL program was massively helpful, he said, separating blood and putting it back in his body.
“I immediately noticed a big difference with my speech,’’ Propp said, noting that a hyperbaric chamber was great help, also a machine that helps circulation, a mat that you lie on, with a computer attach. He sleeps with it.
“I haven’t been sick the last 2 ½ years,’’ Propp said. “I’m thinking clearly and when I skate, I have lots of energy and wind, things like that.”
He got back on the ice about a year and a half after the stroke. He was just in New York’s Central Park playing in a 4-on-4 celebrity hockey tournament. He loved it.
Still a goal-scorer?
“Oh God yeah,’’ Propp said. “I’m a little smarter. I play a little defense.”
He taught them how to do the Guffaw, his signature celebration move.
“It can be tough, depending on how the stroke is,’’ Propp said, noting that he’d love to talk to more people about his experiences. He feels fortunate to have had all the support he’s had.
Propp was asked if he feels courageous.
“I think I’m just humble because of the event, the award,’’ Propp said. “My dad was a Lutheran minister and taught me to be humble and not brag.”
This was a man who scored 97 points in both 1984-85 and 1985-86. The second year that led the Flyers, the year before it was a point less than linemate Tim Kerr.
But the idea this maybe could help others -- “this award means a lot to me,’’ Propp said.