182 goals, 360 assists, 542 points and a career +98. These are not exactly NHL-superstar numbers, but great can mean so many different things.
Craig Conroy, a St. Louis Blue from 1996-2001, held a press conference Friday announcing that he will retire from the game and accept a position in the Calgary Flames front office.
The news comes after Conroy was placed on waivers by the Flames a little over a week ago. He took some time after clearing to weigh his options and he ultimately decided that the next phase of his hockey career should begin immediately as a special assistant to Flames GM Jay Feaster.
"I think the emotions were the first few days," said Conroy. "I'll never say it wasn't disappointing, it was disappointing. ... I was fortunate that they gave me (time) because I'd probably be up here crying like a baby if it was that day or just after I cleared waivers.”Conroy spent time with the Blues, Flames, Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings throughout his NHL career.
Blues fans remember Conroy as the gifted fourth-line center who was so tremendous killing penalties with line-mate Scott Pellerin. He was also stellar in the face-off circle, getting most of the chances to win face-offs in the defensive and offensive zones. He was a fan-favorite during his tenure in St. Louis.
He was traded to Calgary with a seventh round draft pick for winger Cory Stillman on March 13, 2001.
This is where Conroy really flourished and showed his talent. Making the jump from fourth-line center to first-line assist-man seemed to go flawlessly for the Potsdam, New York native. The Flames needed a set-up man for sniper Jarome Iginla and found him pretty quickly. In 2001-02, Conroy’s first full season as a Flame, Iginla popped in 52 goals to take the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal-scorer. Conroy added 48 assists on the season, most of them coming off goals from Iginla’s stick. His 75 points in that season were a career-high. He continued to play with Iginla throughout most of the rest of his career, showing that even a sixth-round draft pick can be a premier-NHL forward.
Making passes to Jarome Iginla and being a two-time Frank J. Selke Award finalist are not all that make Craig Conroy a noteworthy NHLer.
Conroy received the Ralph T. Scurfield Humanitarian Award in 2010 in recognition of his charitable contributions that he has made throughout his career. Conroy has been the spokesperson for the Flames Foundation for Life for the past few seasons. The organization assists families who cannot afford to enroll their children in hockey programs.
Conroy can also be seen in many stock photos of hospital visits and charity golf tournaments for all the teams that he has played for in his 15-season NHL career. He has arguably been the most active NHL-member in his community for the past decade.
Conroy is always popular amongst team members as well. His strong-character and caring-demeanor are key in making a team feel… well, like a team.
“I don't think any person can fill that void," Iginla said after Conroy’s retirement. "It's going to have to be a team effort."
"He was a big part of the team in the dressing room and in the community,” longtime teammate Robyn Regehr said of Conroy. “He was smiling every time he came to the rink. He was a guy who could get the guys going with that type of personality. He was an important player for us and a big part of the puzzle."
Greatness is not measured by numbers; it’s measured by your worth to everyone around you.
When taking this into account, the NHL is losing one of the great guys. Flames GM Feaster did the right thing in keeping him involved in the game.
Conroy’s influence can only be a positive for the Flames organization and the entire NHL moving forward.