Bashful Conroy apologetic over his indecision
Flames veteran ‘leaning toward retirement’
Surveying the media crush penning him in, pausing every once in a while to politely move forward or backwards to accommodate a cameraman’s request, Craig Conroy reiterated that nothing is for positively, absolutely, dead-solid sure.
“Now, I’m embarrassed,’’ he stammered, picking out familiar faces in the crowd. “I came down and I feel like I wasted everyone’s time.
“Everyone’s been so great to me. I won’t drag this out. As I said, I’m even embarrassed coming here today. When I walked in the door I just thought it was going to be Jermain (Franklin, of TSN) and a few other people. And look . . .”
Conroy actually apologized for dragging us all downtown. More than once. And meant it. Which is just SO Craig Conroy.
Actually, for someone still protesting indecision, though, there was pretty clear indication that he’s already begun to move forward with life after competitive hockey.
He knows. He just has to come to terms with it.
“I will be honest, I am leaning toward retirement. Right now that’s where I’m headed. Honestly, they just said take the weekend, figure out what you want to do.’’
He’s 39. One start in the past 28 games, none in 16. It’s time.
“We have a good group of guys here. Never once have they made me feel like an outsider, like not a part of the team. I think it starts with Jarome (Iginla). Everyone has treated me really, really well.’’
Wednesday at noon, when 29 other teams passed on his services, Craig Conroy’s career as an active player for all intents and purposes ended.
“It was easy to come (to the rink) every day,’’ he said of these past few months of inactivity. “Maybe some days I’d leave disappointed because I wasn’t in. Especially when you’re losing. But you’re playing hockey, you’re with the guys. That’s going to be the hard part. I’ve talked to most of them the last few days, and you’re not going to be in that lockerroom anymore. “That’s a little difficult.’’ What’s next? A gig in television commentary? He’s certainly got the patter, if not the poison. Acting GM Jay Feaster said there would be a position somewhere in the Calgary Flames’ organization if Conroy wanted it. In fact, he and president Ken King have already initiated talks along those lines. And if the hockey club has a lick of sense, they keep him here.
There’s also the prohibitive long-shot option of heading down to Abbotsford and finishing the season as part of the American Hockey League Heat. Coach Jim Playfair has already spoken to him about the possibility. But on second thought, naw. “Would it kill me to go to the minors?’’ asked Conroy, shrugging. “Could I help them there? Those are the kind of questions I ask myself. I think could help. But is it in my heart? I want to go down for the right reasons. You don’t want to go down there and not be fully invested in what you’re doing.
“There are young guys down there. You don’t want to take their spots. I always said this was going to be my last year, no matter what.’’
He admitted that the 24 hours on waivers left him with mixed emotions. As far back as September, he said that retiring a Flame, being in Calgary, was his only thought.
“The fans here make it easy. I had it great in St. Louis, L.A. was good, too. Everywhere’s been good. But for whatever reason Calgary really embraced me and my family, in good times and bad. They were always positive and outgoing with me and I just tried to be respectful to them.
“I’ve had a great run in Calgary. It’s been fun. The overwhelming support I’ve gotten, that’s what makes me so emotional. The city. The people. And it hasn’t just been the last few days. It’s been all year.’’
In turn, Conroy has been the consummate professional and the model citizen, indisputably one of the classiest acts to come through here in 30-plus seasons, since the franchise shifted north from Atlanta.
“When my mom says the stuff she hears or reads, what people say, it’s not about the hockey player, it’s about me as a person . . . that’s pretty special. That does mean a lot to me, to my girls. They’re old enough now that they read all the stuff and when it’s all positive, I appreciate that. I can go out with my head held high, doing the best I could and have fun with it.’’ A self-deprecating smile. “Probably some people say ‘I wish he’d shut up a little bit more’ ” No. Lord, no. Never. Conroy, his wife Jessica and three daughters plan to head to Banff for a few days, to relax and most likely mull over a few post-playing possibilities. All that’s left, then, is to file the papers and gather everyone together for one more media mob scene.
“Yeah, I feel bad about that,’’ Conroy stammered again. “I don’t know what to do. Maybe I’ll just have Peter (VP of Communications Hanlon) send out a piece of paper . . .’’
Please don’t. Once more, by all means. No apology necessary. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.