Chris Pronger recently told Canada’s Rogers Sportsnet that he has the eyes of a 60-year-old as a result of the injuries that he suffered in the fall of 2011. That statement is not one that someone would make if he feels that he might be able to return to the National Hockey League someday. Instead, it basically serves as his unofficial announcement that he never expects to play again.
Every Philadelphia Flyers‘ fan wincingly recalls when the former team captain was hit in the eye by an errant Toronto Maple Leafs‘ stick. That terrible injury and a resultant concussion basically ended his career. But, time does allow for healing and the hope that maybe he could come back.
Few members of the orange and black faithful can honestly say that they loved this giant defenseman when he was wearing other team’s uniforms. General manager Paul Holmgren’s acquisition of this sure-shot Hall of Famer from the Anaheim Ducks in June 2009.
That trade led directly to the team’s stunning run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final appearance against the Chicago Blackhawks, which also included an epic comeback against the Boston Bruins in the semifinals along the way. That season caused Flyers’ fans to embrace the man who nearly led their team to its elusive third silver chalice.
This week’s eye injury to New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was caused by a puck, not a stick. However, the link between Staal and Pronger is that neither player was wearing a visor at the time their eye injuries occurred.
Obviously visors don’t offer full protection, but they certainly help to reduce eye injuries. I believe that specific protective equipment should be mandatory in the League.
Possibly Pronger, Staal and an untold number of other men could’ve avoided injury if that were the case. Number 20 didn’t begin wearing the visor shown in the photo that heads this feature until after he briefly attempted to return from his eye injury. But, it was too late to make a difference.
As far as Pronger the human being, every decent fan of the game hopes that he can eventually live a normal life again. Regardless of the punishing style that he exhibited through the years, most people respect what “Prongs” added to the game throughout his superb career.