Advertisement

Too many conflicts in NHL's hiring of Chris Pronger

Too many conflicts in NHL's hiring of Chris Pronger
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, right, celebrates a goal scored by teammate Mike Richards, left, during a game against the Washington Capitals in 2009. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

Maybe relying on the old playground taunt that it takes one to know one, the NHL on Friday announced it had hired Chris Pronger to work in its Department of Player Safety, which punishes rule breakers beyond the in-game penalties they might have been assessed by the on-ice officials.

Pronger, who played for the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship team, was suspended by the NHL eight times for breaking various rules. He incurred two of those suspensions during the Ducks' Cup run and was lucky in each case that he was banned for only one game.

Advertisement

Pronger, who turned 40 on Friday, hasn't played since November 2011 because of concussion symptoms.

But—and this is what makes the optics so bad—Pronger is still being paid by the Philadelphia Flyers and has remained on their Long Term Injured Reserve list instead of retiring because staying on that list affords the team some much-needed salary cap relief. If he retired, the Flyers would lose that break. He signed a seven-year, $34.45-million contract in 2009, when he was 35. He's due to be paid $4 million this season and $575,000 each of the next two seasons.

Even if he recuses himself from incidents involving the Flyers, as is expected, he might still rule on incidents that involve the Flyers' upcoming opponents and help them by suspending opponents' top players. There's no guarantee he would do that, or that he wouldn't. But the possibility is there.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, while visiting Los Angeles to watch the Kings raise their Stanley Cup banner, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he would have no problem if Pronger were to be hired and said Pronger's case is unique.

"If, in fact, we go in that route I'm not sure that presents any problem at all," Bettman said. "He's done playing and he gets paid no matter what, from the Flyers. He doesn't owe them anything."

Pronger is bright and has credibility because of his achievements as a Cup winner, five-time All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, but allowing him to work for the NHL while still being paid by the Flyers is too big a conflict of interest to be ignored. The NHL should be commended for bringing former players into the disciplinary process. But not this former player while he's still on a team's payroll.

Advertisement
Advertisement