Scott Niedermayer and Chris Chelios were no-brainer, first-year Hockey Hall of Fame inductees as two of the greatest blueliners ever to play the game. And Chris Pronger will be the same, whenever his day comes.
The question is, when is Pronger's day?
Technically speaking, Pronger remains an active NHL roster player with the Philadelphia Flyers, and he still has three more years on his deal (with a $4.94 million cap hit).
If Pronger were to retire, the Flyers would be unable to put him on long-term injured reserve and recoup the cap space -- not to mention that Pronger would no longer get paid what he’s owed, and God knows he’s earned the rest of this contract after what he’s put his body through during his All-Star career.
But when is he Hockey Hall of Fame-eligible?
Turns out, at least in theory, he’s eligible just like any other player who has gone three years since playing his last game, which in Pronger’s case was the 2011-12 season.
"He would be eligible in 2015 as far as the way the bylaw reads and as long, obviously, as he doesn't play again prior to his election," said Jeff Denomme, president and CEO of the Hockey Hall of Fame, to ESPN.com on Monday. "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."
Reached by ESPN.com on Monday, it was certainly news to Pronger when apprised of Denomme’s comments, no doubt believing that his active status in the NHL would delay his eligibility.
"Yeah, I guess. Although a lot of that stuff is really out of your hands," Pronger said. "That's why they have those bylaws and different things in place, I guess."
Plus, Pronger stressed, it’s presumptuous for him to even be thinking of his potential Hockey Hall of Fame membership.
"Any time people talk about things like that, it's always an honor to be regarded in that light, but I think it would be a bit early to put myself in that esteemed group," he said. "I'm not too worried about it. I don't think anybody who has ever played the game, that was their goal, it's a by-product of the way you played the game. It's a great honor to be thought about in that regard, though."
Pronger’s humility notwithstanding, it's clear he’s a first-year automatic inductee whenever his times comes, and if it is indeed in 2015, that would be the same year as the great Nicklas Lidstrom, so that would be a perfect 1-2 punch to put in.
"That’s good news for Chris, if he can get into the Hall of Fame when he’s first eligible, he certainly deserves it after the career he’s had, no question about it, that would be a great thing," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told ESPN.com on Monday.
But as Denomme noted, it would ultimately depend on how the Hockey Hall of Fame's Board of Directors (and also the selection committee) feel about Pronger’s candidacy, given his active status -- technically -- with the NHL.
"I’m not sure he would receive consideration until people know he’s really done," said a source.
And certainly, the board would have to be 100 percent sure that Pronger isn’t coming back to play again.
"Yeah, I don't foresee that happening," chuckled Pronger, still suffering post-concussion symptoms.
"I’m on record saying Chris will never play again," Holmgren said. "He’s suffering with an injury. It’s unfortunate."
So, is Pronger in or out come June 2015 when the selection committee votes in his first year of eligibility?
If there’s any justice, he deserves to get in without any delay.
He’s never going to play another game, he’s paid a physical price for the way he played the game as one of the league’s great warriors, and his résumé speaks for itself.