Catching up with Brian Propp
Flyers alumnus has used hockey in recovery from strokeby Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
VOORHEES, N.J. -- Brian Propp was one of 11 Philadelphia Flyers alumni to skate at Flyers Skate Zone on Monday in preparation for the 50th Anniversary Alumni Game against the Pittsburgh Penguins alums at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.
At 57, he is not as fast as he was during his playing career, when he had 1,004 points in 1,016 NHL games in 15 seasons from 1979-1994, but he's doing much better now after having a stroke in September 2015.
Propp said skating has played a large part in his recovery.
"I think the mental part has been really helping me," Propp said. "I still have [speech issues], I'm still working with my speech therapist each week. I'm getting better with that. Still have to concentrate to slow things down a little bit. I'm happy that it's not as bad as [it could have been]. I love to still skate and play golf. I'm very fortunate."
Part of Propp's therapy was at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia and included use of the Vector Gait and Safety System, which has patients secured in a harness but allows them to move freely.
Propp progressed and was able to use roller blades when hooked to the Vector machine.
Now he's on the ice on a consistent basis.
"I've been skating for eight months now with my group of guys. I have a morning hockey league in Pennsauken, [New Jersey]. I have two goalies each time, on Wednesday and Friday mornings. We have five-aside with a couple spares. It's fun because it's invite-only and we just have fun. It's not serious, but sometimes guys get carried away. It's been really good for my health."
Propp said he still has some health issues but understands how lucky he is to be able to live a nearly normal life.
"Both my feet work, my left side works," he said. "I have a little trouble with my right hand and fingers. But I can still skate and I can still shoot, which is OK."
Propp works for Wolf Commercial Real Estate and also is an ambassador for the Flyers, meeting with fans during games at Wells Fargo Center. He also makes himself available to others recovering from strokes and other brain injuries.
"I've got a good story to tell now," he said. "I'm helping other people that aren't as fortune with stroke and brain injuries. I get calls from guys all the time that are going through [recovery from] strokes, and I talk with them and try to help them as best I can with advice, as far as where to go and how to get help. That's a big thing for them.
"As for me, I'm very fortunate I can still speak, and I'm getting better every day. Thankful for my family and their support over the years and my friends, people like that."
Brad Marsh, a former Flyers teammate and president of the Flyers Alumni Association, said it's been great seeing how far Propp has come in his recovery.
"When someone has a setback, and [Propp] had his stroke a year ago Labor Day, it went through the NHL alumni pretty quick," Marsh said. "A lot of people were surprised. That leads to a lot of follow-up phone calls and emails: 'How's he doing?' How he's recovered has made the conversations very easy moving forward. And he's going to be playing in the game Saturday; that will spread through the NHL like wildfire: 'Holy smokes, I can't believe he's playing, good for him that he worked hard to get back.'
"To see him back and playing and skating, goofing around in the dressing room, it's good."
In addition to Propp and Marsh, Hockey Hall of Fame member Mark Howe and United States Hockey Hall of Fame member John LeClair also were at the practice.
"Just trying to get a feel for the ice," Howe said. "It's amazing how much you lose over 20-something years. You go out and you have fun. I guess the biggest thing is try to get a feel for the ice and get the muscles a little bit used to what we're going to do on Saturday. Hopefully, you're not hurting too much after the game."
Brian Boucher and Neil Little split time in goal. Little, now a scout for the Florida Panthers, said it's the first time he's skated in five years but he felt good.
"A lot better than I was expecting," he said. "I was a little nervous because I haven't skated at all. [Boucher] had the same sentiment, but we did all right."