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Pronger's call to Hall could come in 2015

Hall of Fame bylaws state a player is eligible to play 3 years after his final game.

Chris Pronger. (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)
Chris Pronger. (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)Read more

TORONTO - Chris Pronger will be on the Flyers' payroll until at least June 30, 2017.

But Pronger might not have to wait until 2020, or 3 years after he retires, to be summoned into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Instead, the Hall's bylaws state that a player is eligible for induction 3 years after playing his last game.

Pronger's last NHL game was Nov. 19, 2011, part of the 2011-12 season. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren is on record as saying Pronger will never play again.

That means, according to the bylaws, Pronger could be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2015 - even if he is still being paid to be an active player.

"He would be eligible in 2015, as far as the way the bylaw reads, and obviously, as long as he doesn't play again prior to his election," Jeff Denomme, president and CEO of the Hockey Hall of Fame, told yesterday. "If there was any question on matters pertaining to any particular candidate's eligibility, I suspect that's something the board would raise at some point, though."

Pronger, 39, cannot file retirement papers and make his standing official because the Flyers would lose the benefit of replacing his $4.9 million hit on the salary cap since he was over 35 when he signed his deal in Philadelphia.

Regardless of the date, Pronger is a surefire Hall of Famer. The five-time All-Star, Stanley Cup winner and Triple Gold (Olympic, World Championship and Stanley Cup) member is the only defenseman since Bobby Orr in 1972 to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player.

The Hall of Fame's selection committee - which requires 14 votes from the 18-member committee for selection - would likely need assurance Pronger will never play again. Mario Lemieux and Guy Lafleur are two players who returned to the game after their inductions, something the Hall of Fame does not want.

Former Flyer Peter Forsberg, who last played in 2011, is eligible for induction next summer. He played 100 of his 708 career games in Philadelphia and ranks eighth all-time (1.25) in points-per-game. Just behind Forsberg is fellow Hart Trophy winner Eric Lindros, who received consideration this year, with 1.14 points-per-game, but was first eligible in 2010.

Mark Recchi, Dominik Hasek and Mike Modano are a few other first-time eligible players in 2014. No more than four players may be elected in any single year.

No more fight club?

With the NHL's 30 general managers meeting today in Toronto, many assume hockey will take the first step toward eliminating fighting from the game. That won't likely be the case, as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called fighting the "thermostat" that helps cool down the temperature in games.

"I think the level of dialogue gets sparked by an occasional incident, and an incident of this nature, when you look at everything else that is going on in the season, was really a small pebble relative to a full beach of sand," Bettman said. "I think sometimes, an incident, as rare as it might be, tends to get focused on disproportionately."

Bettman was referencing the injury to Montreal's George Parros on the opening night of the season and Ray Emery's fight with Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. There is a possibility that the GMs propose an automatic 10-game ban on goaltenders who cross the red line to fight their opponents, as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press last week.

In fact, Bettman joked with Emery last week at the White House, where the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks were being honored, that it might be coming.

"I said: 'Oh, Ray. It's good to see you. I've been thinking about you.' We had a nice chat," Bettman said. "And I said, 'So just hypothetically, if there was a rule that said if you cross the red line to get into a fight with the other goaltender and you get a 10-game suspension, would you have done it?' He goes, 'What? Are you crazy?' "

'Malibu Mob'

Inductee Chris Chelios, who played more NHL games than any defenseman in history, brought some serious star power to the red carpet in Toronto last night. Among Chelios' guests were actors John Cusack, Tony Danza, John McGinley and Cuba Gooding Jr., model Cindy Crawford, tennis star John McEnroe, and musician Kid Rock.

Cusack said most of those celebrities were part of the Chelios "Malibu Mob'' from his time in California.

Chelios made some waves during his induction speech in which he referenced the two work stoppages that cost him a season and a half in his career. He famously said in 1994 that Bettman should fear for his and his family's safety during the lockout, but Chelios kept it classy and did not mention Bettman during his speech.

"If there was any regret I had in my career, it was the labor disputes," Chelios said. "Everybody suffered. Nobody won."

Information from the Canadian Press was used in this report.