Craig Conroy officially announced his retirement from professional hockey in a press conference at the Saddledome yesterdat, for which the rest of the team was in attendance. He won't be leaving the Flames, however, as he will stay on as a special assistant to interim GM Jay Feaster, facilitating relations between him and the players and occasionally paying a visit to the team's prospects in Abbotsford, amongst other duties.
It's tough to come up with words to describe #24 that haven't already been used multiple times by multiple people. After arriving in Calgary as a result of a trade between the Flames and Blues during the 2000-2001 season that involved Cory Stillman going back the other way, Conroy exemplified everything a professional athlete should be. Friendly and extraverted, he always had time to spare for an interview and took the load off of captain Jarome Iginla when he had had a bad game or was forced to explain why his team had suffered yet another loss. He was and will surely continue to be active in the community and always made the extra effort to connect with fans.
As a sixth round pick in the 1990 Draft, the NHL didn't come easy for Conroy, and he didn't take the opportunities presented to him for granted. A three-time twenty-goal scorer and two-time Selke Trophy finalist, Conroy learned the importance of hard work at both ends of the ice, and drove possession and was often the team's best option at centre against the opposition's top players.
Seeing that the then 26-year old Jarome Iginla wanted the captaincy and that he was ready for the increased responsibility, Conroy handed over the 'C' at the beginning of 2003-04 season--and we all know what happened that year. Conroy went on to finish as the second-leading scorer in the Flames' run to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final, with six goals and 17 points n 26 post-season games. Since returning to the Flames in 2006-07 trade (supposedly upon the request of Iginla) after signing with the Kings in free agency prior to the lockout, Conroy experienced what seemed to be a steadily declining role with the team up to and including his 1000th career game, but could never be heard complaining publicly about his lack of ice time or the fact that he was a healthy scratch.
Of course he wanted to play, but he relished his role off the ice and in the dressing room nonetheless, which no doubt aided him in the transition to hockey operations. A nominee for both the Lady Byng and King Clancy Memorial Trophies, there was little doubt about the generosity, warmth, and class that Conroy, often referred to as one of the most well-liked players in the league, brought to the organization and the city both on and off the ice.
In the end, it was sad to see Conroy pushed to retire essentially on someone else's terms after spending nearly a decade with the Flames, but his personality and experience alone indicate that he will prove to be an invaluable resource to the organization and the city to which he has shown so much respect, passion, and dedication to over the years.
Thanks for the memories Connie, and best of luck in your new position.
How will you remember Craig Conroy? Should the Flames pay him the ultimate tribute and retire his jersey sometime in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments.