Earlier this week, Chris Pronger (or, more accurately, his contract), was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes. Of course, this set off a debate about cap circumvention and other economic fudgery, but what was frustrating was to see Pronger's name treated as a punchline of sorts, a what not to do case for the NHL. He's not the case, his contract is.
Today Chris Pronger is an example of a circumvention of a different kind. He hasn't retired due to cap considerations, so he's getting paid to not play due to injury. He's also an employee of the NHL, hysterically in the Player Safety department. There is controversy regarding if the requirement that a player must be retired for three seasons should've been waived - Pronger will certainly never play again, but some do not feel that this meets the "humanitarian reasons" requirement for waivers that was established in 2000 after Wayne Gretzky's induction.
Regardless of the timetable, Pronger was going to be in the HHOF, and he's going in with a pretty dang good class:
2015 HHOF Inductees Announced! - Congratulations to Fedorov, Housley, Lidstrom, Pronger, Ruggiero, Hay & Karmanos. pic.twitter.com/ByClz0n9da— Hockey Hall of Fame (@HockeyHallFame) June 29, 2015
Nice jersey selection, HHOF.
Pronger's time in St. Louis was bookended by controversy (which seems to be the theme of the day). He was acquired in a trade that got Brendan Shanahan out of town and out of Craig Janney's hair. He was dealt to Edmonton for Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, and Doug Lynch by an awful owner only focused on the pending sale of the team. Of course, he won a Cup in Anaheim in 2007, continuing the long tradition of beloved former Blues who win the Cup elsewhere shortly after being dealt.
While he was with the Blues, the captain won both the Norris Trophy and the Art Ross in 2000, won a gold medal with Team Canada in 2002, and was an all-star five times. His stats are, of course, impressive (and also via Wikipedia):
|1995–96||St. Louis Blues||NHL||78||7||18||25||110|
|1996–97||St. Louis Blues||NHL||79||11||24||35||143|
|1997–98||St. Louis Blues||NHL||81||9||27||36||180|
|1998–99||St. Louis Blues||NHL||67||13||33||46||113|
|1999–00||St. Louis Blues||NHL||79||14||48||62||92|
|2000–01||St. Louis Blues||NHL||51||8||39||47||75|
|2001–02||St. Louis Blues||NHL||78||7||40||47||120|
|2002–03||St. Louis Blues||NHL||5||1||3||4||10|
|2003–04||St. Louis Blues||NHL||80||14||40||54||88|
Check out the 180 PIM in 1997-1998. Well done.
Past the stats, his leadership on ice was valued, and it, along with a post-lockout fire sale, left a gaping hole that the Blues have only recently filled with Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. You could argue that hole's never really been filled, though. The Blues don't have a mean defenseman, and other than Roman Polak, they haven't had one since Pronger's been gone. Polak's mean didn't come with Pronger's skill, though. Pronger was a once in a generation talent who was traded for a whipping boy.
Pronger has returned, in retirement, to St. Louis. He stops in on games here and there. A hall of fame induction night this season will probably happen. A jersey retirement? Would not shock me in the least. Pronger deserves the honor and the accolades, even if they did come sooner than anyone thought that they would.