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Heading to Hall, Pronger could run NHL team someday

by Adam Kimelman

Chris Pronger will be one of seven individuals be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Nov. 9.

When injuries prevented Chris Pronger from helping the Philadelphia Flyers on the ice, Paul Holmgren found a way to take advantage of Pronger's advanced hockey intellect off it.

A two-season, part-time scouting job started the former defenseman on a path that could lead to him being heavily involved with running an NHL team.

"It interests me, absolutely," Pronger said. "It's something I'm definitely interested in doing down the line."

Holmgren, who was Pronger's first NHL coach, watched him grow from an 18-year-old rookie with the Hartford Whalers to a Stanley Cup champion, Norris and Hart Trophy winner, IIHF Triple Gold Club member, and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2015.

Early in the 2011-12 season, Pronger sustained a concussion and eye injury that prevented him from playing. Holmgren, who was Flyers general manager, knew Pronger could help the organization.

"Chris has a really strong and good opinion of players," said Holmgren, now Flyers president. "He's not afraid to tell it like it is, which is great. It was a small group of people that talked to him, myself, [director of scouting] Chris Pryor. [General manager Ron] Hextall did a little bit. He's got a very strong opinion, about a lot of issues, not just hockey. When you pin him down on hockey players and what they're about and 'What do you see in this guy,' he's really good."

After the two seasons scouting, Pronger was offered the chance to work for the NHL Department of Player Safety.

"I got a call from [NHL Deputy Commissioner] Bill Daly asking if I had any interest," Pronger said. "I knew a little bit about the department, but not a whole lot. It was intriguing. I wasn't sold instantly. Did some research on it, talked to a couple guys about it."

After meeting with Daly, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and senior vice president of player safety Stephane Quintal, Pronger took the job at the start of last season.

"We decided it would be a good step to take," Pronger said. "It allowed me to work from home [in St. Louis], go into New York at my leisure if I needed to be. It fit what I was looking for time-frame-wise, as well as it allowed me to stay in the game and continue to be involved in the game in some fashion."

Pronger has learned different aspects of professional hockey, including attending general managers meetings and Board of Governors meetings.

He's back for another season with the Department of Player Safety, but he's left his future open beyond that, including potentially following in the footsteps of Player Safety alumni Brendan Shanahan, president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Rob Blake, assistant GM of the Los Angeles Kings.

"We'll see what happens after this year," Pronger said. "It's been a great opportunity to stay involved in the game and be a part of the League and learn the business side of the game in-depth and on the front lines. Going to the Board of Governors meetings, sit in on those. Go to the GM meetings, sit in on those. Soak it all up much like I did as a rookie player. I'm able to sit in and soak everything up and learn from watching everybody do their jobs."

Holmgren said he has no doubt Pronger will be successful if management is the path he chooses.

"I'm not sure what direction he wants to take as far as life after hockey, but he's probably got multiple paths he could take and be very successful," Holmgren said.


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