Saturday, October 18, 2014

Is there a conflict of interest with Chris Pronger working for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety while still under contract with the Philadelphia Flyers?

On October 10, 2014, it was announced that the Flyers’ Chris Pronger was hired by the NHL to work in its Player Safety Department. However, Chris Pronger hasn’t officially retired as an NHL player and he is still under contract with the Flyers until June 30, 2017.

Seriously, how can that be possible? Doesn’t that put Chris Pronger in a situation to where he could possibly consult on possible punishment against one of his Flyers’ teammates? Last, why isn’t he playing?

Chris Pronger during his playing days with the Flyers.
I’ll answer the last question first. Chris Pronger (who has also played for the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, and St. Louis Blues) hasn’t played an NHL game since November of 2011. On October 24, 2011, Pronger was hit in his right eye in a game against Toronto and has had problems ever since and was diagnosed with an ocular concussion. Last year, it was acknowledged by Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren that Pronger will never play hockey again.

Pronger said this about the injury and the lingering problems in an article on
"My brains were pounding out of my head," (Dave Isaac, USAToday Sports, October 15, 2014)

The Flyers have Chris Pronger on their long-term injury reserve list, which means that the Flyers won’t take a salary cap hit on Pronger’s contract AND Pronger is still being paid. Like I stated earlier, he has not officially retired as an NHL player, even though it has been acknowledged that that he will never play in another NHL game again. 

Chris Pronger shortly after his "career-ending" eye injury
According to Helene Elliott stated this in an article recently for the Los Angeles Times:

“Pronger won't judge cases involving the Flyers, but he's likely to weigh in on incidents involving their opponents, so he can influence whether a player is suspended before facing Philadelphia. Ron Hextall, the Flyers general manager, told reporters last weekend that he tried to clear the muddied waters and get Pronger off the team's cap but was told by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly the collective bargaining agreement prohibited such a move. (LA Times, 10/14/2014).

There was a statement in Elliott’s article from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stating that he “foresaw no problem” and that “He's done playing, and he gets paid no matter what, from the Flyers…He doesn't owe them anything."

The NHL seems to be making up the rules as they go. In my opinion, Chris Pronger should officially retire as a player before taking the job with the Department of Player Safety. He shouldn’t be getting paid by both the Flyers (being on long-term injured reserve) and the league. It is a conflict of interest and the only person who seems to be benefiting from it is Chris Pronger himself. It looks bad for the league. There have been statements stating that Pronger will be recused from any incidents involving the Flyers (Brian Leetch recused himself from any incidents involving the New York Rangers because that is where he spent most of his career).

Pronger, himself, stated in the article that he sees himself as an “advisor” and goes on to state:

"If you think I can persuade (Quintal, who dolls out the discipline) that much, then you're a better man than me," Pronger said. "And by the way, for the record, Shanny had a conflict with each and every team he played on. Any person who is in the player safety department on the former-player side is going to have a conflict somewhere. I understand there's money involved, but you're gonna have a conflict somewhere, somehow, a relationship with a player, GM, guys they've played with, teams, owners. There's gonna be conflicts all up and down the line."

I don’t agree with that statement because when Brendan Shanahan (who is now working for the Toronto Maple Leafs as president) was working for the league, Shanahan had already retired as a player, where Pronger still officially hasn’t. Stephane Quintal has also retired as a player before he started working for the league.

I do not think it's fair to the players who are currently playing in the NHL to have someone like Chris Pronger, who is considered to be an "active" player, in a significant role with the league. 

This statement in Elliott’s article best sums it up:

“It looks bad that Pronger is being paid by a team while working for the NHL (and apparently contradicts Article 26 of its collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Assn.). It's also shaky for the Flyers to be allowed to skirt the cap with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge agreement that Pronger won't retire. What could redeem this is Pronger's intelligence and resume, assets that merit allowing time to see if he can avoid favoring the hand that's feeding him.

This is proving that Chris Pronger was allowed to “play dirty” on the ice (he was suspended eight times during his playing days), and he’s being allowed to “play dirty” with this new position he now has. It also shows that the league (Gary Bettman, Stephane Quintal, etc.) thinks they don’t have to abide by certain sections of the Collective Bargaining Agreement if it works in THEIR favor.

The best thing for this situation is for Chris Pronger to announce his official retirement as a player. I also believe that it would be best if players were retired for a certain period of time before being approached about/hired for positions by the league office.  

Here are the links to the articles I used to read more into this:

No comments: