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ALL-TIME ALL-STARS - CONROY

Infectiously personable and a fan favourite both on the ice and off it, the former pivot continues to help build team into a winner

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

They are the best of the best in Calgary Flames history.

Over 24 days we will profile our All-Time All-Stars (listed alphabetically at each position). Make sure to check back daily to see who's getting the nod.

May 8 - Theoren Fleury (RW)

May 9 - Jarome Iginla (RW)

May 10 - Hakan Loob (RW)

May 11 - Lanny McDonald (RW)

May 12 - Joey Mullen (RW)

May 13 - Doug Gilmour (C)

May 14 - Joe Nieuwendyk (C)

May 15 - Kent Nilsson (C)

May 16 - Joel Otto (C)

May 17 - Craig Conroy (C)

May 18-22 - Left-wingers

May 23-28 - Defencemen

May 29-31 - Goaltenders

Today, one of the most popular players - and now assistant GMs - in team history: Craig Conroy.

The cheering started midway through the Canadian national anthem on Jan. 31, 2007 inside the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Two and a half hours on, it hadn't abated any.

"In my mind," confessed Craig Conroy, basking in the moment, "I pictured it just like this."

A self-deprecating pause.

"Well, maybe not just like this. This passed all expectations.

"It's fun to be back."

It was fun to have him.

Only 48 hours earlier, the Flames had reacquired the wildly-popular centreman from Los Angeles. And Conroy's two goals had just helped drop the Kings on their britches, 4-2.

A decade after that memorable night and a full six seasons following retirement, Conroy was (and remains), the loyal soldier, the trusted sidekick, the quintessential company man.

Other centres would score more goals over their tenure here (Robert Reichel, for instance, twice hit for 40+). Young buck Sean Monahan is making up ground at a torrid pace.

Yet the infectiously personable pivot hailing from Potsdam, N.Y., occupies a unique place on this franchise's historical roll call.

His stellar two-way game would net him a finalist berth for the Selke Trophy in 1998 and 2002. He'd wear both an 'A' and a 'C' on the left side of his Calgary jersey and log over 500 games in the colours.

He was also, of course, the best complement to the finest player this franchise has ever seen, Jarome Iginla.

Iginla has long given much credit for his Art Ross Trophy-/Rocket Richard Trophy-capturing 2001-2002 season to his friend, the guy dispensing him the puck on many of those 52 goals.

Only two years later, throughout the course of the astounding, galvanizing 2004 post-season springtime run which fell a single win short of a Stanley Cup title, Conroy proved to be among the driving forces.

The Iginla-Conroy collaboration took hold only after No. 12's regular centre, Marc Savard, had been injured. Conroy, just over from St. Louis, was dropped in as a temporary substitute.

And wound up making the job his own.

"Jarome had 20 goals in 20 games," he recalled of that initial spark. "We developed a bit of chemistry. So even when Marc came back, I stayed on the line."

While Conroy's playing reputation was largely built on a tidy two-way game, a jack-of-all-trades persona, no less an authority on production than Brett Hull, a career 742-goal Hall-of-Famer, vouched for his former St. Louis lineman's oft underrated offensive acumen.

"It's just a shame that he got pigeonholed as a 'defensive' centreman,'' tut-tutted the Golden Brett.

"Imagine how many guys that's happened to over the years. He's always been one of the best skaters in the league. Sees the ice well. Could always pass. I just think he was undervalued in a lot of ways.

"I wouldn't have minded a bit to have him as my centreman for as long as he wanted.

"He's been a loyal servant of the Calgary Flames and they should be proud to have him as a representative."

In announcing his retirement from the game, and moving into management at on Feb. 4, 2011, Conroy said: "I consider myself lucky that my career brought me and my family to the city of Calgary and the Flames organization."

The feeling was, and is, entirely mutual.

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