There was a huge elephant in the room at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees today as Chris Pronger spoke to the media, but nobody could address it directly. It just stood there, big and grey and overwhelming, without making a sound.
Everybody knew this was Chris Pronger's retirement press conference, but the Flyers defenseman and future Hall of Famer just won't say it.
At least eight questions today touched on the topic, even the direct "Is this your retirement press conference?" question. But because of the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, Pronger can't (or won't) officially retire. If he does, he'd be sticking the Flyers with a $4.9 million salary cap hit each season until July 2017 thanks to the 35-plus contract Paul Holmgren signed him to in the fall of 2009.
So he'll sit there, still technically on the Flyers roster for the next five years and on (very) long-term injured reserve, years after his final game as an NHL player. How can we be so certain that Pronger will never play again? Well, just read some of these quotes (you can watch the whole presser here):
My eye is still troubling. It's not working properly. I don't have peripheral vision. I don't have a lot of the things I have that have worked well for me in the past. My eyesight is-- I keep having to get stronger and stronger glasses. I just got another new prescription. You work on getting healthy.
I have some vulnerability that [doctors] are worried about. That may or may not go away. No matter how long it takes, I have to get healthy that's my main focus and goal.
At times, I can be disoriented, I can lose my train of thought. My cognitive skills are a little suspect at times. It comes and goes on certain days. I can be sitting here and you might say 'what's wrong with him?' and I'll figure out what I was saying and start going again.
I have glasses and I can drive, yes, but I can't run. Anything where I have to move my body fast. If I ride a bike where my heart rate gets up to high, I get symptoms. Pretty much anything where there's a lot going on. ... I've been on the ice with my kids but I can't say I'm really doing a lot. Pushing pucks around. I've been on the ice and I've gotten symptoms and tried to do some things. It didn't go very well.
He can't ride a bike or run or do anything more on the ice than push pucks around with his kids. He's lost most or all of his peripheral vision. He gets stronger glasses all the time and the doctors are worried that his symptoms won't improve. He forgets what he's saying when he's talking.
He also can't say that he's retired from hockey, because it will screw over his team for the next half a decade. But even though he inserts the hope into some of the things he says -- "I'm focused on getting better and from there we'll see what happens" -- just look at his condition objectively here. Chris Pronger is retired from hockey.