Q: How much time do you feel like you have left in your body?
“Well again, I don’t know…I felt good when I played this year. That the funny thing, every time I started to feel better and started to get my feet underneath me and get back into the grove, I had another injury. You talk about the other season, I basically missed the whole season, I played five games and I had my wrist issue where I had reconstructive surgery on my wrist. Mentally I feel like I can play. When I was healthy, my play speaks for itself. It’s a matter of staying healthy.
“This year was very tough, every time I turned around I had another injury. It wasn’t like it was a bump and a bruise, it was something broken that needed surgery to fix. That can be a little disappointing and frustrating, when you know you can still play at a high level and your play speaks to that and you’re not able to go out and play. That’s tough, especially when you feel like you can add another element to the team when you’re out there. Mentally I’ve got a lot left, it’s how my back feels.
“Basically, if the surgery works and I am able to train properly and get healthy, I don’t see why I can’t continue to play as long as I want, as long as everything else holds up.”
Q: Did you feel an immediate impact from that surgery? Did you feel relief right away?
“I did, yeah. I no longer had the burning sensation and the shooting pain down my leg was gone. Obviously you can’t move all that much, they don’t want you bending, twisting, doing all the rest of that stuff. You’ve got to let the back heal up. Obviously it’s a very sensitive area with nerves and all the rest of it. So, you’ve got to be very careful.
“You want to make sure you don’t want to rush things like this. You want to make sure you have all summer, training camp, the start of the year. I don’t know when I will be healthy, when it will be back. I hope it comes back and it’s a hundred percent, but I want to make sure I take my time and rehab it properly and do all the things necessary to make sure that it is a hundred percent when I do come back and there’s no issues moving forward after that.”
Q: How is the rehab for the back going to affect the rehab you do for your hand? Can you do one while you’re waiting to start on the other?
“I am actually doing that right now, as we speak. I’ve got different things that I do on the days when I am not doing hand therapy with a hand specialist. Just continue to try to gain strength back and work on my hand to try to get it back to where it needs to be to play the game properly.
“It’s the same answer basically for my back, time heals most wounds. I am sure a long summer of rehab and what not will get that back to where it needs to be play at a high level, hold my stick, and do all the rest of those things that way I need to be a good hockey player.”
Q: It requires a lot of patience doesn’t it?
“It does, it does. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of patience in order to kind of go through the different steps to reach each hurdle. As you progress in the rehab protocol, you’ve got to hit a hurdle and then you go to the next one. It takes time, you can’t just jump back in to things you want to do. While you may want to do those things, you’ve got to just buy your time and be patient and just work through the various steps that have been put in place, kind of gauge yourself. You’re going to feel good but you just got to gauge it. A lot of times you’ve got to tap down a little bit and slow yourself down; you get antsy. It was a tough year, but I want to be able to use this time to make sure I’m healthy when I come back.”
Q: Has the doctor given you a time table for when you can start skating? I think he said in about four weeks you would be doing some things, but is that skating or do you know what’s next for that part of it?
“Time, we got lots of time. I don’t know when I am going to be able to skate. I didn’t even ask, that was the last thing on my mind. There are a lot of hurdles that I need to cross before I can begin skating and all the rest of that stuff. I can’t really do anything for six weeks, not four. So, once I go and get checked up, I will be able to get the Q and A on the progressing further along and begin my rehab.”
Pronger played all 23 games in the 2010 Playoffs, compared to just three in 2011.
Q: Have you been watching the NHL Playoffs? Are you finding yourself rooting for anybody in particular, maybe a former teammate, anything like that?
“I have not watched, I have watched some highlights, but I haven’t been watching too intently. I have not been rooting for anyone, just rooting for long series. I want every series to go seven.”
Q: At the end of the season, Paul [Holmgren] said he couldn’t figure out why this team didn’t play as well as it did the first half of the season. Do you have any thoughts about that at all? “I don’t. You know, I think everybody would have liked to get better as the season progressed and those are the teams that usually progress further into the playoffs. I think we’ve seen that with the four teams that are in the conference finals. All four of those teams got better as the season went along and that’s what you need to do be successful is playing your best hockey at the right times, and we weren’t.
“That is something for whatever reason we didn’t do. I don’t think I have an answer for why. I know you’ve got a lot of opinions on it. I couldn’t give you the answer as to why. There’s going to be 29 other teams in the same boat as us. So, it sucks. You set out to have a goal and you don’t achieve that goal it’s very disappointing.
“There are always arm chair quarterbacks, there’s always people looking in, looking for excuses or answers as to why this happened, that happened. At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done. We’ve got to use the summer properly and make sure we are ready to go for September, whatever the start of camp is 15th or 16th, make sure once we set foot on the ice, we’re focused and understand what we need to do to be successful and follow through on that.”
Q: Coming off that, a lot of fingers were pointed at Mike Richards, I am sure you have heard some of the things that were said about him…
“I have not. I have not. I have a simple answer for you. When a team wins, players get pats on the back or get all the credit. That’s usually your captain, your goalie, all the rest of that. When you lose, whether it’s fair or unfair, the people that get criticized are your captain, and your goalie, and all the way down the line. This is a team sport and for you to be successful you need everyone around you to play well. Whether it’s [Michael Richards], [Jeff Carter], myself, [Kimmo Timonen], [Brian Boucher], [Sergei Bobrovsky]; I mean it’s not just one guy.
“People can say whatever they want about Richie, but at the end of the day you have to realize it’s a team sport. I saw one headline ‘should Mike Richards step away for a year from the C.’ What good does that do? That is the most ridiculous thought I have heard yet. This is on-the-job training for Mike. I was brought in to help him be a captain and do all the rest of that and kind of help with my experiences.
“I think I got here, he was 24, he’s now 26. I think he’s made some strides. Everybody does things their own way. I wasn’t always this vocal with the media or this patient. It takes time, you have to have those experiences. I think when you go through tough times, maybe this is one of them for him, you learn an awful lot about yourself, you gain a lot of experience. This game and life is not easy. Nothing in life worthwhile is easy. If it was, everyone would be able to do it.
“You learn how to handle different situations and it only makes you better as a player and a person, because you can always look back on those tough times and [know] I was able to come through those with my head held high and better. So will Mike. I went through them as a young captain; I went through them as a player. Getting booed, getting mouthed off walking out of the rink and wanting to fight guys after games and all the rest of it. It’s not easy, especially on a team when the expectations are this high and the fans are this passionate.
“That’s all experience. I think it’s a little ridiculous to be blaming one person. We win as a team and lose as a team – period, end of story.”