Inside the Flyers: Flyers' Chris Pronger should be allowed to retire

Chris Pronger , 38, is still suffering from post-concussion syndrome.
Chris Pronger , 38, is still suffering from post-concussion syndrome.
Posted: March 13, 2013

Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger should have had a stirring retirement celebration before Thursday night's game against Pittsburgh, saluting a career that will undoubtedly put him into the Hall of Fame.

Instead, the charade continued.

Pronger attended the game at the Wells Fargo Center, sat in general manager Paul Holmgren's suite and, perhaps because he is in the process of making a comeback (wink, wink), wasn't even acknowledged on the scoreboard.

Earlier Thursday, during a news conference at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, Pronger talked about trying to make a return from post-concussion syndrome.

Pronger, 38, knows his career is done. So do Flyers officials. Heck, even Pronger's doctor, a concussion specialist from the University of Pittsburgh, said he has advised the defenseman to never play again because of "significant" medical vulnerabilities.

Yet, the charade continues because of the NHL's ludicrous cap rules.

Change the rules. Stop the charade. Let Pronger (and others) get on with his life - whether it's as a broadcaster, scout, coach, or whatever.

If Pronger retires, the Flyers will be on the hook for a $4.9 million cap hit each season until his contract expires after the 2016-17 season.

So the Flyers have stashed him on the long-term injured list because it gives them $4.9 million of cap relief each year, even though they still pay his salary.

The solution is simple: If a player is forced to retire because of an injury, a team should still pay his salary but be absolved of his cap hit.

The argument against that is that some teams, unhappy with a long-term deal, might fake an injury and ask an unproductive player to retire. That way, he still gets paid but his cap hit would go away.

Maybe I'm being naïve, but I would hope the parties involved would have too much integrity for that.

And if the NHL is worried that its teams lack integrity, it should offer cap absolution for concussions that end careers.

The league, in case you hadn't heard, is a strong proponent of preventing and treating concussions.

Well, how about a rule that makes it easier for a victim - someone who obviously has played his last game - to put playing hockey in the rearview mirror?

When Pronger was asked Thursday if he thought the rule should be changed, he deflected the question and said it was a league matter.

OK, league. Show some common sense.

As for Pronger's health, he has made some small strides.

He still gets headaches, his eyesight is getting worse, and he has some memory lapses.

On the positive side, he said his depression is lifting, and it was great to see he still has his sense of humor, that he still enjoys the give-and-take banter with reporters.

During Thursday's lengthy news conference, his barbs were sharp, his trademark smirk was still intact.

Asked how he felt, Pronger didn't skip a beat.

"I get headaches now just talking to you," he cracked.

He still cannot do "anything where I have to move my body fast" - such as running, skating or riding a bike quickly - because it gives him concussion symptoms. But he can drive. He can play with his kids. He can live a fairly normal life.

In the end, of course, that's all that matters.

It's time to celebrate his career and time for Pronger to move to the next step in his life.

Time to end the charade.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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