Let's start by expanding upon what the term 'optimism' means regarding current Philadelphia Flyers' defenseman Chris Pronger, because this is a subjective point.
Anyone who cares about other people's lives should have a sense of optimism when they learned that Pronger has been feeling better recently. Those who only care about what he can produce on the ice, or who don't care about the lives of other human beings in general, probably aren't encouraged at the moment.
The National Hockey League presents an exciting, but very dangerous game. Along with the thrills of high-speed action, come incidents of debilitating physical injury.
Along with many hardcore Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs' fans, I witnessed Pronger get hit in the right eye by an errant stick on October 24, 2011. That unfortunate event may prove to have actually been the beginning of the end of this terrific player's career.
After only missing six games, he returned to action against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He only played for a short amount of time thereafter, missed 69 total games last season and never returned to action. A recent doctor's visit confirmed that the veteran is recovering from post-concussion syndrome, but doesn't appear to be close to even skating again any time soon.
Those who have experienced serious work-related injuries (within any field) can commiserate with Pronger. While someone's financial situation clearly helps to facilitate recovery plans and fund resulting lifestyle arrangements, that's not the main topic at hand.
Appreciating Pronger and others like him
Pronger formerly represented the opposition. But, his acquisition from the Anaheim Ducks in June 2009 forever changed that reality.
I saw 'Prongs' play on a regular basis, had the opportunity to interview him and also to be around him during the past few seasons. My respect for this soon-to-be 38-year-old man was formed through those personal experiences.
Once the NHL lockout ends, my hope is that he never tries to play again. His family and his own life are infinitely more meaningful than any paid job has been, or will ever be.
Some misguided souls may attempt to paint this future Hall of Famer as a cheap-shot artist who deserved what happened to him. That mentality is reflective of individuals who have something missing within themselves. I hope that those personality types work on improving their own lives, because (believe it, or not) I also think that they deserve to live better.
Every hockey player likely understands the risks that are associated with their chosen profession. It's also my guess that most players, or most fans, would love to have someone like Pronger on their team when he was in his prime.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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