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On the fence

by Kristi Hennessy / Calgary Flames



A day after clearing waivers, Craig Conroy says he is leaning towards retirement from his hockey playing days.

The popular Calgary Flame veteran, however, said he plans to take the all-star break this weekend to make a final decision.

“Take some time to make the right decision for you. Don’t do things when you are emotional,” is what Flames president Ken King and acting general manager Jay Feaster told Craig Conroy after he cleared waivers Wednesday morning.

“They told me to take the weekend, figure out what you want to do,” said Conroy. “Just relax and have a few days to let everything sink in and then make a decision. I will be honest though, I am leaning towards retirement. Right now that’s where I’m headed but they did say to relax and take a few days.”

Conroy said he is going over everything to make sure that he is making the right decision for himself and his family. The 39-year old has come to a fork in the road that all professional players will hit at one point or another. Do you call it a day and hang up the skates after a great career and begin the next chapter of your life or do you continue doing what you love to do?

“Would it kill me to go to the minors and do it? Is my heart in that? Could I help them there? Those are the kinds of questions that I ask myself,” he asked. “I think of course I could probably help but am I going down there for the right reasons. You don’t want to go down there and not be fully invested in what you’re doing. That is all it really comes down to, just those little things in my mind.”

Conroy said this is an emotional time because of what the City of Calgary and the Flames organization have done for he and his family.

“I’ve had a great run here in Calgary and it’s been fun. The overwhelming support that I’ve got is what makes me emotional -- the city and the people. It hasn’t been just the last few days, it’s been all year. I really appreciate everybody that I talk to everywhere that I go. It’s a special feeling. I’m very touched and my family is too. That’s what makes it so special here for me.”

Conroy admits that when he was first told that he was going to be placed on waivers from King and Feaster, it was tough to swallow and then consider that it might be the end of his playing career.

“I wasn’t going to get to play. That’s what they told me. That’s the reality of pro sports, it’s always a little disappointing when you hear it but they were very honest. It’s always tough; I’m not going to say it was easy. This is all I’ve ever done up to this point so maybe now there might be something else to do," said Conroy.

There have been talks that Conroy may find that ‘something else to do’ right here in Calgary, including worlking in some capacity with the Flames, if offered.

“I talked to Ken and he said they can’t do anything now but when you make your decision after the all-star break, we’ll definitely sit down and discuss something.  Nothing is for sure but the idea is there. They gave me some feedback and it’s promising,” said Conroy.

Conroy was able to hit the 1,000 NHL game mark this season. That accomplishment was one that sat very high on his bucket list.

“I think it’s right at the top- to play 1,000 games,” said Conroy. “I didn’t know if I was going to play five games, 10 games or any games in the NHL. That was a big moment. And to be able to do it here with the fans, that whole night was unbelievable. Now we’re at another point, maybe a lower point but just something different.”

As a fan-favourite and one of the most likeable guys in the National Hockey League, Conroy said that the fans have been one of the most enjoyable parts of his career, especially here in Calgary.

“The fans here make it easy,” he said. “That’s what I enjoyed so much about it. The response and the way they treat you. I had it great in St. Louis and LA, everywhere has been good but for whatever reason, Calgary has really embraced me and my family through good times and bad. When we’re winning, when we’re not winning, it didn’t matter to them.”

If Conroy decides that he is not finished playing hockey, Jim Playfair, the coach of the Flames top affiliate in the American Hockey League, the  Abbotsford Heat, already has a list of things for him to get started on.

“I talked to Jimmy when we were in Vancouver and even before. He said he’d love to have me on the power play, penalty kill, everything to help the young guys. Jimmy would be great, there’s no doubt about it. If I went down there, I think he’d be awesome with me. There would be no problems.

“It’s just if I have it in my own self, to go do it and do the best I can and really embrace it. That’s all it’s come down to at this point.”

Conroy plans to spend the weekend in Banff to consider just that. Early next week, we will all know what the next chapter holds.

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