PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Pronger is at an NHL training camp for the 21st time, but this one is a bit different.
Twenty years ago this month, Pronger arrived for Hartford Whalers training camp months after being the second pick of the 1993 NHL Draft.
This marks the first September since then that he hasn't spent the summer preparing for an NHL season.
"It's not the same from that standpoint of coming to the rink knowing you've got a purpose and knowing you're coming to start preparing for the season, preparing for hopefully a long stretch drive, a roll through the playoffs and achieving your goal," Pronger told reporters. "Coming to the rink is always an adrenaline rush. Seeing the guys, coming into the locker room, seeing the staff, that's always fun to be around. It can be a little depressing at times knowing you're not able to be where you want to be."
Pronger hasn't been where he's truly wanted to be since Nov. 19, 2011, the last time he played in a game. A month later he was diagnosed with severe post-concussion syndrome, and since then he's attempted to get his life as close to what it was like before he was injured.
"I'm doing OK," he said. "It's a process and some days are still a little erratic and you have highs and lows. My therapy is going pretty well. My eye treatment has progressed along and we're seeing some good things. It's moving in the right direction. Obviously I'm still having some significant issues."
As an example, Pronger said a recent spin on the ice with his kids didn't go so well.
"I went on the ice a couple weeks ago with my kids," he said. "Moving in a straight line slowly was OK, but you start turning and spinning, things like that, you get lightheaded and dizzy and you start having symptoms, and you get brought back down to the real world real quick and you realize there's still a lot of work to be done."
When he's not working on his health, Pronger is doing other work for the Flyers. He helped last season in an unofficial scouting role, and said that's something he would be willing to do again if the Flyers asked.
"At times you enjoy it," he said. "The pro scouting stuff is a little easier because you know the players and what you're looking for. The draft stuff, the junior hockey, that's a lot of projection and I think you need to have a little more experience and more of a base to really understand kind of the development and projection and where guys could end up."
Putting on his scouting hat, Pronger said he liked what the Flyers did in the offseason, especially on the defensive end with the addition of Mark Streit.
"I like the way our defense corps is structured and set up," he said. "One offensive guy with a defensive guy or a physical guy; you have that nice mix and you're able to keep teams honest.
"I like the moves. I think depth-wise we're a lot stronger. I think having a full summer of training and rehab and preparation for the season, I think guys coming out of a lockout, a mad race, the mad rush to get the season started, I think that affected a lot of guys. I'm sure there's a lot of guys that would say they're not in the best of shape and it showed on the ice. With a long summer of training and preparing and knowing this is a big season for a lot of players, they took that upon themselves to really work hard this summer and made sure they were ready to go."
While the players will be ready to go for the season, Pronger will still be in recovery mode and continuing to figure out what's next for him.
"I think in speaking with my doctor, you have to … before you get symptoms it was you stop doing stuff," he said. "Now if you get symptoms, just try to push through it [and] raise the bar, so to speak, and make sure you're continually trying to make sure that that next level is [higher] as opposed to going back to the same spot. You want to continue to try and push it up."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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