Chris Pronger has traded his orange-and-black jersey for an orange-and-white tie.
As he sat in the theatre at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Tuesday morning for the Gatorade High Performance Hockey Summit, the former Philadelphia Flyers captain knows his playing days are long behind him.
Concussion symptoms stemming from a stick to the eye in October 2011 ended his career less than a month later.
By November 2015, he could be back at the Hall of Fame as an inductee, even though he’s still under contract with the Flyers through the 2016-17 season. It would be surreal, but the 39-year-old hasn’t thought much about that or other things that could’ve been.
“That’s a what if,” Pronger said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “It would be a tremendous honour, but I don’t sit around and think about it, pine over it. If it was to happen, great. But I certainly don’t put any effort into concocting a long story about it.”
A Hart and Norris Trophy winner and one of the most imposing defencemen of his era, Pronger is considered a lock to make the Hall of Fame one day. Whether that’s in 2015 will be up to the selection committee.
“To quote HHOF’s by-laws: ‘A candidate for election in the player category must have concluded his or her career as an active player for a minimum of three playing seasons before his or her election,“’ Hockey Hall of Fame president and CEO Jeff Denomme wrote in an email. “As such, any player who concluded his or her career as an active player during or after the 2011-12 season will be eligible in 2015. Questions pertaining to eligible candidates for the 2015 election proceedings will be confirmed at HHOF’s Board of Directors meeting in November.”
Pronger, who took a stick to the eye from then-Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski on Oct. 24, is living in St. Louis now and working as a scout with the Flyers. The effects from that injury assured that Nov. 19, 2011 at Winnipeg would go down as his final NHL game, and some symptoms have still not gone away.
“I have them from time to time,” Pronger said. “But I’m doing pretty well. For the most part, I’m pleased with the progress. Every once in a while you take a step backwards, but things have been progressing.”
Pronger was one of just two players to represent Canada at the first four Olympics with NHL players, along with goaltender Martin Brodeur. Any chance of his making Team Canada in 2014 was ended more than two years ago, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think a healthy Pronger could have made it to Sochi even at his age.
“Who’s to say? There’s a lot of what ifs,” Pronger said. “We don’t live in the what-if world, we live in the now world. I’d like to think I would, but who knows? I don’t know.”