CALGARY – Craig Conroy is starting the next phase of his career without any regrets.
The veteran Calgary Flames forward made his retirement official Friday, deciding to accept a position as a special assistant to acting GM Jay Feaster rather than try to extend his playing career.
Conroy took some time to weigh his options after being waived by the Flames a little over a week ago. He had the option to report to Calgary’s AHL affiliate in Abbotsford.
However, the 39-year-old seemed confident in the decision to retire while appearing in front of a packed press conference that included his former Flames teammates.
“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.
“Now I’ve come to terms with it.”
Conroy beat the odds during his career by going from a sixth-round pick to playing 1,000 NHL games—a milestone he achieved in October.
He finished with 182 goals and 542 points in 1,009 games for Montreal, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Calgary.
“I had a great career, I got to play for some great organizations,” said Conroy. “I started in Montreal and that was my dream—playing in the old Forum, doing all that. … All the players and all the management, everybody that I’ve met in hockey has been unbelievable.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to stay and still be a part of it.”
The real clincher came when Feaster sent him a list of tasks involved with his new role.
Conroy will liaise between the players and management in Calgary and make some visits to Abbotsford to speak with prospects. He might also be assigned to special projects that include scouting work for Feaster.
“Right away I was excited with it,” said Conroy. “It’s actually a job. I’m going to be learning and building on things.”
From the Flames’ perspective, it was a no-brainer.
“It was very easy to put a job description together of the areas that Craig can be a tremendous asset for this organization,” said Feaster. “I just think it’s a tremendous resource for us. I’m very, very excited to have him on board. He’s going to be a great addition to the management group.”
It’s been a tough couple months for Conroy.
He was a healthy scratch in 28 of 29 games—making his final NHL appearance Dec. 20 against Minnesota—before being placed on waivers. However, true to form, Conroy handled the situation with class.
“Jim Peplinski said `very few people in hockey leave the sport elegantly’—we know one thing for sure, he wasn’t talking about Craig Conroy,” said Flames president Ken King. “Craig has not only distinguished himself obviously on the ice, but he’s created a legion of fans for himself and for the Calgary Flames.
“(He’s) left this phase of his hockey career as elegantly and as graciously as any human being could.”