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Capturing Conroy

Flames veteran and teammates tell tales as Craig Conroy hits 1,000 NHL games

Wednesday, 27.10.2010 / 6:35 PM / News
By Mike Board  - CF.com Digital Content Director
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Capturing Conroy
There are plenty of stories being told as Craig Conroy prepares for his 1,000th game.
They are the best of friends now but Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy weren't always on the best of terms.

Like the time in St. Louis when as opponents, they came to blows on the ice.

CRAIG CONROY

Born:
Potsdam, NY, Sept. 4, 1971
Ht: 6'1" Wt: 188 lbs Shoots: Right
Drafted:
Mtl, sixth round (123rd overall) in 1990
Acquired:
From Los Angeles in exchange for centre Jamie Lundmark and two future draft coices on January 29, 2007
First Game:
02/15/1995 @ Hartford
First Goal:
02/16/1995 @NYR (Richter)

Notable:
He has dressed for four NHL teams over his career: Montreal
(13), St. Louis (359), Los Angeles (130) and Calgary (497)...His first playoff goal came in 1998 with the St. Louis Blues where he scored the series clinching goal in a first round sweep over the Los Angeles Kings. Conroy represented the United States at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, scoring a goal and adding an assist in his first Olympic game...
Conroy will be only the 8th player to register his 1000th game as a member of the Calgary Flames and will have played 498 games in a Flames uniform
Conroy joins Lanny McDonald, Dave Lowry, Craig Berube, Martin Gelinas, Owen Nolan, Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow.


"He was going after Savvy (Marc Savard, then Iginla's linemate). It was kind of a line-brawl. Reggie (Robyn Regehr) was fighting with Tyson Nash. Savvy wasn't in the mood so I stepped in. We got into it. It wasn't a big one. It wasn't a crazy fight. But I probably bested him in that one," Iginla recalled.

With Conroy, 39, set to hit the major 1,000-game milestone Thursday against Colorado, there is a lot of storytelling, plenty of reminiscing and friendly jousting going on at the Scotiabank Saddledome these days.

"He jumped me," retorted Conroy when told Iginla's version of the fight. "I was trying to get to Savvy, someone a little smaller and suddenly he was there. After, in the dressing room (coach) Joel Quenneville said to us both that we were done with fighting and not to do it again because it was the biggest momentum swing to the other team he had ever seen."

There is a "but" however.

"Iggy knows who has the hardest punch. We do those punching machines and he knows who hits the hardest. I just couldn't land one that time."

The pair, who are now like two peas in a pod, weren't all that friendly when Conroy was first acquired by the Flames in exchange for Cory Stillman and a draft pick (which turned into David Moss) back in 2001.

"Jarome was kind of grumpy. In fairness, the coach (Don Hay) had been fired a couple of days earlier so he wasn't too happy anyway. I see how he treats guys who get traded here now and it is way better than he treated me," laughed Conroy.

"We weren't a high-scoring team and we traded our highest scorer," Iginla, a 24-year-old in his fifth NHL season at the time. "But it didn't take long for him to settle in and make an impact here. In St. Louis he was a checker but (then GM Craig Button) saw the offensive potential. It was a good move. Good scouting."

Indeed it was. Iginla scored 52 goals the next season with Conroy -- the checker turned playmaker -- as his center.

"Absolutely," said Iginla when asked if Conroy was major factor in that 52-goal year when he claimed the Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies. "I got like 300 shots. I would go to the net and he would just get me the puck. He also helped me understand the game, too, having played in St. Louis on those President's Cup teams."

The duo developed one of those special friendships that has flourished ever since. In fact, it was Conroy who passed the captaincy to Iginla in 2003. "It was an honour to get if from one of my best friends," said Iginla.

Conroy spent three seasons, including the 2004 Stanley Cup run, in Calgary before departing for Los Angeles as a free agent for the 2005-06 season.  He would return to Calgary 52 games into the 2006-07 season, a day before the Kings played the Flames on Saddledome ice. That return to Calgary sticks as a special moment for Conroy.

"They put me on the jumbotron and just the way the fans responded. That was a special day," said Conroy.

The always-talking Conroy has always been a fan favourite. His laugh and his honesty won much appreciation from the Flames faithful. "They have always treated me so well. It is important that they are treated fairly and with respect," he said of the fans.

It's doesn't happen often -- and it may seem hard to believe -- but Conroy can get angry.

"When he snaps, it is unbelievable," said Iginla. "It's not very often but when something sets him off, you just have to get out of there. It's not him, really. And the next day he is always apologizing."

Now poised to become the eighth player to reach the 1,000-game mark as a Calgary Flame, Conroy will be able to mark another special moment in his career. Perhaps even more special considering he wasn't sure he would even be playing in the NHL this season after signing a two-way contract late in the summer.

"I'm excited. I didn't know over the summer if it was ever going to happen. Even at the beginning and through training camp. Now, to be one game away and get it at home, it is going to be special," said Conroy.

Game 1 for Conroy was in 1995 against Hartford. His linemates were Vinnie Damphousse and Brian Bellows. The next game he scored his first goal, against the New York Rangers. His linemates were Donald Brashear and Ed Ronan, tough, third line players. "I scored with the second guys," he grinned.

He was never sure he would stick in Montreal. At his first practice he hit goalie Patrick Roy in the head with a shot, prompting the rambunctious goalie to get into a tussle with Conroy.

"Can you imagine getting into a fight with Patrick Roy on your first day in the league," said Iginla.

Conroy would stop in St. Louis, then Calgary, then Los Angeles and now, back in Calgary.

"Not only is he one of my best friends but he has been a good player," said Iginla. "He has always been a great passer and he has been able to fill so many different roles."

For Conroy, that may have been the secret to his longevity -- being able to play well defensively, win draws, provide some offence and, most importantly, dressing room leadership and laughter.

Asked for more fond memories, Conroy replied:

"Obviously the run was fun. And all the days in between. There is always something. There's a lot of stories I can't tell. A lot of good times. You play 1,000 games, you play with a lot of great people. Your teammates are always the ones who make it so much fun and I have always had great teammates," said Conroy.

While the Flames players joke that he may be the oldest American-born to reach the 1,000-game plateau, they certainly know Conroy has more hockey in him.

"It's not a swan song," said Iginla. "We're moving forward. This is 1,000. I hope there's many more."