Freelance writer Laurence Heinen caught up with Flames veteran Craig Conroy for Face-off, a regular feature in Blaze, the Flames official magazine, which is available at all Flames home games and on newstands in Calgary.
Q: What are your expectations for yourself this season?
A: I want to bounce back, have a much better year and just try to find a spot on this team. Whatever role they need to have filled, hopefully I can fill it.
Q: Coming into the season, you’re nine games away from playing your 1,000th game in the NHL. Last year you saw teammates Daymond Langkow and Jarome Iginla reach the same milestone. How special is that going to be for you?
A: It’ll be pretty special. I always say that I thought I was only going to play one game and now I’m almost at 1,000, so it’s pretty special. I’ve been able to make a good career out of it.
Q: What do you think of the line of Iginla with Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen?Q: But if that doesn’t work, you’ll be ready to jump in there on a line with Iginla?A:
A: I think it’s going to be good. It’s nice that it’s together right now (in training camp), and it’s going to have time to gel and have time together. I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses. Coming in, you knew that was kind of going to be the line. You want them to find a rhythm and get into a groove because that’s the one thing the team was really lacking (last season) was a top first line, so hopefully that’s the combination that works.
Well, I would say next would probably be Stajan because Staj is looking good out there. He’s making some nice playsand he’s skating well. That’s the one thing, we have a lot of different combinations that we can use, but you’re really hoping that the first three guys we talked about are the line and they can kind of take over this team, we run with it and follow their lead.Q: Do you feel the atmosphere is pretty loose around here this year?A:
I do think having Brent Sutter as coach for another year is great. Everyone kind of knows what to expect. We seemed a little tight last year, not sure what was going on. Guys are here working hard, having fun and enjoying themselves. It has been intense, but still a great atmosphere.Q: Are you excited about the role you’re going to play?
A: I’m just happy. It is exciting to be back out there and having fun. As far as the role, I think any time you get on the ice playing in the NHL, whatever the role is, you want to do your best. Whatever role they say, I’ll do. That’s how I broke into the league. They said, “We need a checker in St. Louis. Are you willing to do that Craig?” I said, “Sure, whatever it takes to play.” That’s the same here. Whatever plays out, hopefully I get an opportunity.Q: You’re on a two-way contract. Are you prepared for the possibility of being sent down to the American Hockey League to play with the Abbotsford Heat?
A: I’m being too positive for that. I’ll cross that if it ever comes, but I feel good right now. Everything’s going well, and I just want to do my best. As far as being sent down, I don’t know how I’d deal with that. I’d try to be positive and think of all the good things and keep those negatives at bay.Q: When your playing career ends, do you think there are still a lot of other opportunities for you in hockey, whether you choose to go into coaching or broadcasting?
A: There are definitely a lot of other opportunities out there with hockey. The problem is that I still love the playing part. At some point, I’ve got to let that go too. The good thing is, I feel good this year and I’m ready. I want to go out there and have fun with it and enjoy it, do my best and kind of let the chips fall where they may.Q: Has the coaching staff asked you to be a mentor to some of Calgary’s young prospects?
A: I think that is part of it. I always try to help the young guys anyways, and I try to help with Jokinen coming back and Tangs and to help with you guys, the media, just to take the pressure off Jarome. Everybody’s a young guy to me now, whether it’s Jarome or Mikael Backlund
. You’re just trying to help everybody out and be a positive influence, especially in the locker room.Q: Some guys don’t seem to like getting interviewed. You love it. Why is that?
A: When you’re losing, it’s tough. Somebody’s got to do it, first of all. It’s just chipping in. Over the years, you guys have been good to me too, so it’s a give and take.Q: What do you like about living in Calgary?
A: Definitely not the weather this year. I think that all the people I’ve met in Calgary are great. I have so many friends outside of hockey. It makes it fun. I’ve moved around, and everywhere I’ve been in this city, it has just been nice to be here. It’s a good-sized city, but it still has a small-town atmosphere. I feel like I know everyone everywhere I go. That’s what I like the best about it. It feels like home to me.
Q: What’s your favourite sport to watch other than hockey?
A: Football’s my next favourite. I like baseball because I have fantasy pools, so I like my players, but I really do like watching football, especially on Sundays.
Q: What’s your favourite football team?
A: Definitely the Stampeders in Calgary, and I’m from New York, so the New York Giants in the NFL.