Pronger out for the season

Philadelphia Flyers captain, Chris Pronger will miss the rest of the 2011-12 NHL season due to...

Philadelphia Flyers captain, Chris Pronger will miss the rest of the 2011-12 NHL season due to post-concussion syndrome. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:09 AM ET

MONTREAL - The deep and dark hole that is concussions has swallowed up another NHL star and the way things are going, the hole seems bottomless.

Minutes into what turned out to be a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night, the Philadelphia Flyers announced top defenceman Chris Pronger will be lost to the club for the remainder of the season because of post-concussion syndrome.

“After consultation with respected concussion specialists Dr. Joseph Maroon and Dr. Micky Collins, it is the opinion of both doctors that Chris is suffering from severe post concussion syndrome. It is the recommendation of Doctors Maroon and Collins that Chris not return to play for the Philadelphia Flyers for the remainder of the 2011-12 season or playoffs,” said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren in a statement. “Chris will continue to receive treatment and therapy with the hope that he can get better.”

That’s scary right there.

“With the hope ...”

But that’s where we are with the epidemic of brain trauma in the NHL right now.

Pronger is 37 and it has to be a legitimate worry that this could be not just a season-ending, but a career-ending injury.

That thought is superceeded by the hope he will be capable of leading a “normal” life away from the rink, even if he never skates in the NHL again.

The Flyers earned their seventh-straight win Thursday night and are 12-4-1 without Pronger, who replaced Mike Richards as the head of the Flyers’ spiritual core this summer. It’s been remarkable how the remade Flyers have been able to cope without Pronger’s menacing presence lately.

“We wish we had him in the lineup tonight. But he’s not here and hasn’t been here so we’re moving forward right now,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette after the game. “The hard part at the end of the day to swallow is he has been shut down for an extended period of time. Where there was hope, right now there is none.”

The Pronger announcement comes at a time when the NHL is being battered by the loss of several stars to brain trauma.

The Flyers are still awaiting word on how long they will be without league-leading scorer Claude Giroux, who was kneed in the head by teammate Wayne Simmonds on the weekend and missed Thursday night’s game.

Sidney Crosby, the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the face of the NHL, remains sidelined with a recurrence of the concussion-like symptoms which kept him out for 10 months. He returned to play eight games this season before taking a couple of hits against the Boston Bruins Dec. 5 and then complained of not feeling quite himself.

Crosby did not practice Thursday and remains out indefinitely.

The Penguins will play in Ottawa Friday night against a Senators team that is without league-leading goalscorer Milan Michalek, who was concussed and is out indefinitely after colliding with teammate Erik Karlsson Tuesday night in Buffalo.

Pronger’s problems seem to have started when he suffered an eye injury Oct. 24 when he was hit by the stick of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski on the follow through of a shot. Pronger was out for six games before returning to play another five.

Losing its marquee players is a staggering problem for the NHL.

Losing them through incidents that do not qualify as dangerous hits, the kind of hits and accidents that can’t be legislated out of the game, is beyond frustrating.

There will be kneejerk calls for the NHL to do something -- anything -- to protect its stars.

But the truth here is there is nothing Rule 48, putting the red line back in, going to a bigger ice surface or getting rid of the trapezoid could have done for the concussions suffered by Pronger, Giroux or Michalek.

“All around, it’s really bad news, but we need to keep on fighting,” said Flyers forward Max Talbot. “What can I tell you? It’s the reality and it’s not a good one. It’s not a fun one. It’s not a positive one for us, but we’re going to keep on battling, keep on playing. We can’t do anything else about it.”

Sadly, he might have summed things up for the league, too.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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