Former St. Louis Blues defenseman Chris Pronger isn't ready to retire, even though a concussion specialist has advised him not to return to hockey.
The 2000 NHL MVP and Norris Trophy winner has not played for the Philadelphia Flyers since Nov. 19, 2011 and still suffers from lingering effects of multiple concussions. But he wouldn't rule out attempting a return if physically possible.
"I'm just trying to get healthy and live a normal life and get better for myself and my family," Pronger said Thursday, now wearing glasses. "The rest will take care of itself."
Pronger hadn't spoken publicly since Dec. 1, 2011. He said he still can't run, or even skate hard. He's bothered by bright lights and he's lost some of his peripheral vision.
The 38-year-old Pronger joined the Flyers in 2009 and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago that season. He played 50 games the following season and 13 last year.
Pronger was in town to catch a game and catch up Flyers ownership on his status, 16 months after an inadvertent stick to his right eye left him with vision loss and severe concussion symptoms -- and psychological damage as well.
Pronger said the symptoms changed his personality and left him depressed. It was difficult for his wife, Lauren, and three children to handle.
"You're (ticked) off that you are not playing the game you love, that you can't go do what you want to do every day," he said. "Then you are even more (ticked) off because you got a headache and it's getting worse and worse in your eyes and you're light-headed and dizzy and your kid comes over and you snap."
Pronger has returned to living full-time in St. Louis.
He has been seeing neurologist Michael Collins at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for the past 15 months. Collins issued a statement advising Pronger to retire.
"I believe the best and safest advice is that he not play hockey anymore given the high likelihood of continued vulnerabilities," Collins said.
Pronger tried to describe what he has been going through.
"You get headaches, you're not wanting to do anything, you sit around, you can't work out, you get depressed," he was saying during a rambling news conference Thursday afternoon at SkateZone in Voorhees, N.J. "You try to work out and you get nauseous, a headache, you want to lay down. It's an awkward feeling, and it's something that when you haven't experienced it before you really don't understand what it is that these guys are talking about.
"I guess the biggest part is the depression and how you feel about yourself and how you feel about the injury. How dark you go down."
Those dark days are gone, he said, thankfully, but the symptoms still hound his daily life. He has no peripheral vision and has been given no assurances by the physicians treating him at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center that he will ever regain it. He cannot run or do even minimally taxing physical activity, he said. Prolonged activity of any kind -- even Thursday's news conference -- triggers pulsating headaches that last all day.
Pronger even handed out a news release from UPMC with the headline "UPMC Concussion Expert Advises Decorated NHL Defenseman Chris Pronger to Stop Playing," seemingly a subtle way of telling Philadelphia once and for all that he is done. Yet because of the NHL's bizarre rules involving injuries and the salary cap, Pronger redirected all retirement questions like he once cleared pucks, speaking in nebulous terms about regaining his overall health, not necessarily returning to play.
"I've made some good improvements from where I was," he said early on during a 28-minute televised session that was followed by another 10 minutes off-air. "But I still have a lot of work ahead of me."
Later, after several go-rounds on the topic of possibly playing again, he said, "It will be difficult. But the good things in life are never easy."
The 6-foot-6 Pronger led Anaheim to the 2007 Stanley Cup title and won Olympic gold medals with Canada in 2002 and 2010. He signed a seven-year contract with Philadelphia in 2009.
He has 157 goals and 541 assists in 1,167 career regular-season games in 18 seasons with Hartford, the Blues -- where he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP -- Edmonton, Anaheim and Philadelphia.
"It will be difficult, but the good things in life are never easy" Pronger said. "You have to set goals and try to push yourself to attain them and reach them. This is no different. I have to keep working at it."