NHL Hiring Guy on Flyers Payroll to Decide Player Punishment

Per reports, Chris Pronger will soon be a member of the NHL's player safety committee. Though he won't play again, he's still being paid by the Flyers.

The NHL is hiring former Philadelphia Flyer Chris Pronger for a job in its Player Safety Department, ESPN reports. Pronger will be one of those who decide the appropriate punishment for illegal hits.

But there’s an issue: Pronger is still being paid by the Flyers. Pronger last played in 2011, his career cut shot from concussion-like symptoms. He’s not ever going to play again, but he’s still under contract.

Pronger’s contract, which he signed in 2007, pays him until 2017. So each year he’s quietly shuffled onto long-term injured reserve at the start of the season. It’s beneficial for both the Flyers and for Pronger. If he were to officially retire, Pronger wouldn’t be entitled to collect his salary. Also, per NHL rules the Flyers would be stuck with a cap hit of several million in “dead” money; by putting him on long-term IR, he doesn’t count against the salary cap.

And people are upset about his new role in the NHL.

A league source told ESPN the NHL “understands how people will perceive the optics of the hire but care more about the fact it wants a respected hockey mind joining the player safety group.” Several top hockey names have left the department recently.

Pronger is a good fit: He has suffered seriously due to hits he took during his playing career, including a high-stick to the eye in October 2011. Surely his own experience with concussion-like symptoms cutting his playing career short would inform his decisions on player safety. And he his hiring makes the league look good in terms of caring about head injuries.

But he’s still being paid by Comcast Spectacor! “The NHL cannot possibly have a rostered Flyer helping out on suspension lengths for, say, some superstar on a Metropolitan division rival,” Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky wrote. ESPN’s Scott Burnside also points out Pronger was frequently in trouble with the league as a player. The Sporting News’ Sean Gentile notes an NHL discipline czar once complained about calls against his son, and there will be grumbling when suspensions are announced for Flyers’ rivals. Plus Pronger is a Flyer! People hate the Flyers! They’d care less if he were a Florida Panther.

CSN Philly reports the Flyers won’t be penalized under the salary cap when Pronger takes the NHL job, and suggests a deal has been worked out to make this work. Pronger is expected to recuse himself when Flyers players are disciplined.

Whatever the conflicts of interest, I heartily support the idea of adding a Flyer to the NHL player safety committee. May all his rulings against the Penguins, Devils and Rangers be overly harsh.