Chris Pronger may join NHL Player Safety; wouldn't rule on Flyers

Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Puck Daddy
Chris Pronger may join NHL Player Safety; wouldn't rule on Flyers
Chris Pronger may join NHL Player Safety; wouldn't rule on Flyers

NHL disciplinarian Stephane Quintal hinted last week some “big names” might join the Department of Player Safety. Well, how’s this for a big name?

Chris Pronger.

The All-Star defenseman and Stanley Cup champion has interviewed for a job in the DPS and is at the top of Quintal’s list to replace the departed Brian Leetch. He would be part of the team that analyzes plays, participates in hearings and gives input to Quintal, who makes the final decisions.

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Pronger would be a controversial choice for two reasons:

-- One, he racked up 1,916 penalty minutes in the regular season and playoffs combined over his 18-year NHL career. He was suspended eight times for a total of 22 games – 20 in the regular season and two in the playoffs. The infractions? Slashing. High-sticking. Leaving the bench to join an altercation. Cross-checking. Kicking (twice). Hitting the head (twice).

-- Two, he hasn’t technically retired. He’s still being paid by the Philadelphia Flyers, who have him on long-term injured reserve for salary-cap reasons. He has three years left on the deal he signed in 2010 at $4 million, $575,000 and $575,000.

But Pronger would be an inspired choice.

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If you want to build a better safe, hire a safe-cracker. That was part of the reason NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hired Brendan Shanahan to lead the DPS when it was formed in 2011, and it was part of the reason Bettman named Quintal as Shanahan’s replacement in September. Shanahan and Quintal both had run-ins with the law during their NHL careers.

Pronger commands respect. No one can say he doesn’t understand either side of the equation. He knows the mentality of players who break the rules, but he knows the pain of players who have suffered head injuries, too. Though he hasn’t officially retired, everyone knows his career has ended because of concussions and he has lingering symptoms.

His connection to the Flyers does present a conflict of interest. But he hasn’t played since November 2011 and does not have any active role in the organization anymore. He would not weigh in on any incidents involving the Flyers. The NHL Players’ Association is involved; the NHL likely would wait for the union’s blessing.

Pronger would work behind the scenes, the way Leetch and Rob Blake did when they assisted Shanahan. But this shows Quintal, who doesn’t have the high profile Shanahan did, is not afraid to hire someone more prominent than he is. It’s about building the best team. 

And the roster isn’t complete yet. Stay tuned.

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