Chris Pronger walks a fine line between working for the Flyers in a scouting capacity and sitting in on meetings with management, all the while being a dues-paying member of the NHLPA.
Such is the life of a former player, struck down by post-concussion syndrome, and living between two worlds -- permanently disabled player and club scouting.
“I have yet to be told what my duties are,” said Pronger, who still suffers from headaches from an ocular concussion and likely will for the rest of his life.
“As still an active player and a dues-paying member of the [NHLPA] and all that, I know my role will be somewhat limited still in what I can and can’t do," Pronger said on Thursday at Flyers training camp.
Pronger is not an active player in the true sense. He can’t retire without harming the Flyers' salary infrastructure. Under the CBA, they would be stuck with his near-$4.9 million cap hit for the remaining four years of his contract without the ability to place him on LTIR.
By not retiring, he goes on LTIR once the season begins, gets his money, the club gets to use his salary for cap benefits, and he gets to try his hand at evaluating talent off video and in-person scouting.
The problem is, Pronger is from a generation of players that prefers things black and white without shades of grey.
In short, Pronger doesn’t like the potential conflict of interest.
“I’m not saying I can’t [do this],” Pronger said. “There’s a lot of things I would rather not know. I don’t think I need to be part of a lot of things that go in management’s office.
“Still being part of the PA and still being a player on the team and all the rest of that stuff. Scouting is something anybody can do. Putting in reports on teams and systems is something I don’t see a problem with [doing].”
He planned to meet with general manager Paul Holmgren on Thursday to discuss living in two worlds and setting some guidelines he would feel comfortable with.
“I’m not pulling back,” Pronger said. “It’s just a matter of having a conversation."
Ethically, it’s difficult for Pronger to offer candid opinions to management on players whose entire career could go south on something he says when he is paying dues, like them, to the NHLPA.
Then again, this entire job is all new to him.
“At times you enjoy it,” he said. “Doing the pro scouting stuff is a little bit easier because you know the players and know what you’re looking for.
“The draft stuff, the junior hockey, that stuff is a lot of projection. You need to have a little bit more experience and base to understand development and where guys can end up.”
Pronger has scouted college, junior and pro athletes. When the time comes where he can retire without ramifications, he likely will make a terrific scout. He is, after all, a future Hall of Famer.
As for his health, there remains no consistency in his daily life.
“It’s a process,” he said. “Some days are still a little erratic. You have highs and lows, but my therapy is going pretty well. My eye treatment has progressed along.
“We’re moving in the right direction. Obviously, I’m still having some significant issues. I went on the ice a couple weeks ago with my kids.
“Moving in a straight line slowly was OK. You start turning and spinning and things like that, and you get lightheaded and dizzy and you start having some of those symptoms and you get brought back down to the real world, real quick. You start realizing there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
He showed up at Flyers camp and his juices got flowing before reality floored him.
“It’s not the same when you’re coming to the rink knowing you’ve got a purpose and start preparing for a season and a long stretch drive to roll through the playoffs and achieve your goal,” he said.
“Coming to the rink is always an adrenaline rush and seeing the guys coming to the locker room, seeing the staff, that’s always fun to be around. But it can be depressing at times, too, knowing you’re not able to do what you want to do and what you should be doing.”
And it will always be that way until the finality occurs when Chris Pronger is officially retired and living in one world, not two.