Chris Pronger is officially eligible for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Hockey Hall of Fame's general voting members ratified new bylaws Wednesday which, among other things, introduced new language for the three-year waiting period for eligible players.
Within new bylaw No. 26, the key section reads: "a person is not eligible for election in the player category if he or she has played in a professional or international hockey game (which terms shall not be considered to include games played only or primarily for charitable or recreational purposes, or for any other limited purpose that the Chair of the Board of Directors determines, in his or her discretion, should not disqualify for nomination a person otherwise eligible) during any of the three (3) playing seasons immediately prior to his or her election."
The new language resolved any ambiguity as it pertained to players who haven't played in three years but might still be getting paid and haven't officially retired due to salary-cap reasons in the NHL. Pronger, 40, is a prime example, having last played in November 2011 and whose career ended earlier than expected because of post-concussion issues.
The Hall of Fame felt this change was important since a more objective test will apply to the three-year waiting rule, without the need to verify contractual or medical issues, and there are and might be other cases like this going forward in the salary-cap system.
The question is, will the 18-member Hall of Fame selection committee nominate and vote Pronger in come their June 28-29 election meeting? The nomination deadline for committee members is April 15. We'll find out then whether or not the selection committee members still feel uncomfortable with Pronger being paid his player contract by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Pronger's contract with the Flyers expires in June 2017, which would have meant Hall inclusion no earlier than 2020 had people waited for his official retirement.
Pronger was originally drafted with the No. 2 overall pick by the Hartford Whalers in 1993. He also played for the St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks before being traded to the Flyers before the 2009-10 season. He won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
Pronger won the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player and the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman for the 1999-2000 season.
"[Pronger] belongs in the Hall, wherever he went he make a huge difference," Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin told ESPN.com. "You think of Edmonton's run, Anaheim, his time in St. Louis when he won all those awards including the Hart, to me he was a wonderful defenseman."
Former NHL center Michael Peca played with Pronger on the Oilers team that reached Game 7 of the 2006 Cup finals, an incredible spring performance that year by Pronger.
"The greatest compliment to give him is that every team he went to became a better hockey team instantly," Peca said. "I saw it first-hand in Edmonton, he just gets everyone around him to believe more in themselves, too. He just projects his aura of success and a very respectful level of arrogance; he wants everyone to get to his level of expectation. He made every team better not just because of his play but because of his presence and the belief that guys had being in the locker room with him."
Former superstar Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer, also a Hall of Famer, was happy to hear of the bylaw change which opens the door for Pronger, his old tandem mate from the 2007 Cup team.
"He certainly deserves to get in," Niedermayer told ESPN.com on Thursday.
"I would say he was fairly unique in his talent and what he brought to a team," he added. "Not only his size, his competitiveness -- he was probably as competitive as anybody I ever played with -- and he didn't mind getting disliked on the ice. And maybe something I didn't really fully appreciate until I played with him was his skill level as well, how good a passer he was, how skilled he was at putting pucks on net. Pretty smart player all the way around. No question. Him and [Nicklas] Lidstrom were two of the most dominating defensemen of their time."