By Savannah Malnar
It’s October, which means it’s officially the beginning of the NHL season. As with the start of any sport season, there’s excitement, debate about teams and season predictions. But what kind of beginning of a season would it be without a little controversy?
As of October 8th, the NHL doesn’t lack that. It was reported that famed Flyer goon, (or enforcer, depending what side of the hit you’re on), Chris Pronger was interviewed for a job within the NHL player safety department. The media immediately blew up, for two primary reasons.
First off, Pronger has a total of 1,916 penalty minutes in the 18 years he played in the NHL. His number of times suspended? 22 games. Two of those suspensions were for hits to the head. He isn’t the first person that would usually come to mind regarding “player safety.”
Secondly, Pronger is still under contract with the Philadelphia Flyers for three more years. Because of concussion and eye issues, he will not play in the league again, but the Flyers need to keep him on long-term injured reserve and continue paying him for salary cap reasons. His salary while on the IR will be $4 million this season and then $575,000 the next two.
The hockey media seem to be in two camps, but surprisingly the sticking point is the remaining contract, not his reputation on the ice. In fact, after the initial shock and flurry of jokes about the irony of the situation, the media agreed he would be fitting for the job. To quote Nicholas Cotsonika, Yahoo! Sports hockey writer, “If you want to build a better safe, hire a safe-cracker.”
Still, there is an apparent conflict of interest with Pronger being paid directly by the Flyers for three more years. He would have the opportunity to put voice his opinion on player safety cases for all of the teams in the NHL, including the Flyers. Would there be bias? Probably not. Would there be more controversy and maybe even lawsuits if a mistake is made? That situation isn’t out of the question.
Some of the media are calling for him to be hired, but for the NHL to not seek his advice on any cases regarding the Flyers. This seems fair. Bob McKenzie, hockey commentator on TSN, tweeted that the NHL Players Association is involved in this decision. As long as the players are in agreement, there shouldn’t be any more debate within the media.