The Giant Falls: Flyers Admit for the First Time That Chris Pronger's Career is Over
The inevitable has been confirmed.
In a heart-breaking dose of reality, the Philadelphia Flyers have publicly acknowledged for the first time that Chris Pronger's professional hockey career is done. In a radical metaphor, it feels like the plug has finally been pulled.
In an exclusive interview with Hockey News, this is the first time the team has publicly made it known his career is over.
"I'll say it, Chris is never going to play again," said Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren. "I have no problems saying it."
It was one of the hardest sights to get used to - seeing a spectacled and bearded Pronger, hunched over and pained by the very same things that bother an elderly man.
Lights, noise, constant activity; the Pronger who could once sense a winger looking to accept a back door pass out of the corner of his eye couldn't even sense when his children were sneaking up on him.
Those were the attributes that earned Pronger his Hall of Fame credentials - 2000 Hart and Norris Trophy Winner, 2007 Stanley Cup Champion with Anaheim, and 2006 and 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist with Canada.
Last season, Pronger held a press conference to promote the book his younger brother, Sean, wrote, as well as talk about his status with the media.
During that presser, Pronger talked about his mood swings, his battle with depression, and how his relationship with his wife and children were affected. Working out was a chore, watching TV was a challenge, and not until a few times last winter had Pronger been able to last through an entire live hockey game.
But most importantly, Pronger lost his "sixth sense." He said that he had a 30-year-old's eyes, and now has been reduced to have the eyes of a 60-year-old man. The peripheral vision was gone, and so was his ability to sense the happenings around him.
A man who once stood at 6'8" on skates and demanded the respect of the other 11 skaters on the ice had been reduced to a shell of his former self. He was also a man who not only earned the respect of a room full of reporters but controlled those who spoke and addressed him.
Pronger showed some of that life during that March 7 press conference, breaking the chops of reporters, joking and still controlling the pace of the interview. It was the most normal fans and reporters got to see Pronger in over a year, and it's been nearly two years since the injury that downed the giant occurred.
It was on October 24, 2011 that Mikhail Grabovski's stick connected with Pronger's left eye on a follow through from a shot. Pronger tried to make a return a couple weeks later but lasted just five games before he saw his season end.
And then the reports came out that Pronger's career was in jeopardy. And then to start the 2013 season, Pronger was placed on the long term injured reserve where his chances of playing dwindled to the least likely of possibilities.
And now, the plug has been pulled.
Once Pronger's contract is up after the 2016-17 season will he officially be able to announce his retirement. And that is why he will be robbed of the same parting ceremony that Nicklas Lidstrom earned after the 2011-12 season.
That is probably the most heart-breaking fact out of all of this. One of the game's greatest players will be robbed of the same parting ceremony that Lidstrom enjoyed.
A man whose presence was felt merely by being in the same room as him, will quietly fade into irrelevancy in a few short years.