Bettman OK with Pronger getting shot at safety job
Oct. 09, 2014
LOS ANGELES (AP) — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman would have no problem with Chris Pronger working in the league's department of player safety even while the former defenseman is still on the Philadelphia Flyers' payroll.
Bettman addressed the potential conflict Wednesday night while in Los Angeles to attend the champion Kings' Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony.
Yahoo Sports reported Pronger recently interviewed with Stephane Quintal, the NHL's senior vice president of player safety, for a job in the league's disciplinary wing.
Yet Pronger hasn't technically retired. The former NHL MVP is still being paid by the Flyers through 2017, even though he hasn't played in the league since 2011 due to concussions and an eye injury.
Bettman wouldn't confirm Pronger is a candidate for a job in the player safety department, noting several candidates are interviewing for the job to replace Brian Leetch.
"Chris' case is unique," Bettman said. "There are salary cap reasons why he couldn't officially retire, but ... if in fact we go that route, I'm not sure that presents any problem at all to deal with. He's done playing. He gets paid no matter what from the Flyers. He doesn't owe them anything."
Quintal's department is responsible for doling out suspensions, fines and other discipline for on-ice transgressions, traditionally one of the NHL's most contentious areas. Pronger ran afoul of the office many times during his bruising career, incurring numerous suspensions for vicious hits and questionable on-ice behavior.
Pronger has an annual cap hit around $4.9 million for the Flyers, who signed him to a seven-year contract extension in 2009 after acquiring him in a trade with Anaheim.
Pronger played in just 145 regular-season games for Philadelphia, but the Flyers would incur serious salary-cap consequences if he retired, likely forcing the club to trade players to get under the limit.
With relatively little controversy in NHL circles heading into the new season, Bettman relished the opportunity to enjoy the pregame banner ceremony and a rivalry game at Staples Center between Los Angeles and San Jose.
He also expressed admiration at the NBA's enormous television rights deals with ESPN and TNT. The new arrangement will increase the league's annual TV revenue from $930 million to more than $2.6 billion.
The NHL reached a 12-year, $4.9 billion Canadian rights deal last November, and the league reportedly makes about $200 million annually on its U.S. deal with NBC Sports through 2021.
"At the time, people were hailing it as a terrific deal," Bettman said. "We more than doubled our rights, and based on what's happening to the marketplace, the next time we go into the marketplace, I'm sure we'll do quite well. ... I've always said to the owners, 'If we get to the end of our deal and we're being underpaid, that's a really good thing.'"
Bettman doesn't regret inking a long-term deal with NBC, and he doesn't worry that the U.S. sports rights market will deflate in the next seven seasons.
"People have been saying there's a sports bubble for the last 40 years," Bettman said.