SUN Hockey Pool

'Just cancel it!'

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

Ever the optimist, Craig Conroy now sees no point in carrying this on any longer. "Two days of meetings and no progress?" the former Flames captain said from his Watertown, N.Y., home.

"Just cancel it then. Do everyone a favour and announce the season is over. In my opinion, if we sit out this year, we're in for the long haul. And if my career is over, I guess I'll find something else to do."

At a time when everyone except Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow are willing to accept the 2004-05 NHL season will be reduced to nothing more than an asterisk, Conroy and many of his NHLPA brethren are already considering their options for the longest summer/winter of their lives.

Conroy, for one, is looking into accepting a public relations job with his hometown's McGrann Paper that would see him act as a high-profile schmoozer, allowing him to golf with clients and do what he does best -- talk.

"A guy I know called yesterday and asked if I'd be interested if things didn't work out," said the 33-year-old centre, who signed a four-year, $12-million deal with Los Angeles after the Flames' playoff run.

"I was fortunate to be in the league when we were making a lot of money, so I've been able to put some away. It's sad because this could be one, two or three years long and some guys are really in tough spots."

Third-year Flame Steve Montador, for example, is looking into something that more closely resembles the 9-to-5 employment most hockey fans endure.

"I'm looking at taking some courses at university but who knows? I might even go straight into the work force," said the

25-year-old defenceman, who recently returned to Calgary after a stint playing pro hockey in France. He's now taking flying lessons at Springbank Airport.

"It would be something to keep my mind in shape. I've put out a couple calls to friends to see what they might have out there. I'm thinking about maybe starting a couple small businesses or joining a buddy to learn the bar business."

As the sobering reality sets in that the NHL has never been further from returning to the ice, Montador may want to pay attention to the nuances of pouring doubles for local patrons drowning their sorrows without hockey.

"It's embarrassing, it's crappy and it's disappointing to be associated with all of this," said Montador of the labour strife.

"I always had a little speck of hope and that if they cancelled the season, I'd be surprised. I still don't think it's completely over but I've certainly been thinking a lot about what to do."

It's a helpless feeling for all involved, especially Conroy, who sees, hears and reads nothing in the U.S. media about the latest NHL news, of which there is little.

"I saw what Jeremy Roenick said and that he'd be willing to take a vote on whether to accept a salary cap if something is out there," said Conroy. "My opinion is that if there's something good on the table, then let's vote. But now it would be a waste of time. I bet 90 percent of the guys would turn the latest proposal down in a heartbeat."

And so, a number of players will now venture into the real world of sorts.

"It puts in perspective for a lot of guys that when their career is over -- what are they going to do?" said Conroy. "As for flying with Monty, I don't know about that. I'd have to check that out first and see how good he is."

Lord knows he'll have endless time to get better and better.


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