Conroy in it for long haul

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Nine-hundred games to his credit and a silver stick in his sight as soon as next season, Craig Conroy isn't sure what he'll do with himself when his National Hockey League days are done.

But his competitive ego would probably suffer at home.

"I might take a beating," said Conroy the morning after playing his 900th regular-season contest.

His three daughters, aged 4, 9 and 11, are getting pretty good at beating him in sports games on their Nintendo Wii.

"A couple of them are starting to make me crazy. My kids can actually beat me," said Conroy, whose competitive spirit is one of the biggest contributors to his 14 seasons in the NHL.

"That's my one rule: I don't let anyone win anything, even my kids. So when you beat me, you beat me. They really appreciate it more, I think."

Conroy appreciates his time in professional hockey as much as anyone.

Even moreso since the lockout gave him a taste of life without it.

"I think the biggest thing for me was the lockout year, not having hockey, showed me how much I really did miss it, how much it meant to me," said Conroy.

"I'd go play with all my buddies in the beer leagues in the afternoon. Pick-up hockey games. I just liked to go play."

All the while thinking and hoping the lockout would end.

Playing just for the love of the game is something Conroy carried over post-lockout. When the big contract he signed to play in Los Angeles with the Kings expired, he took a hefty cut to stick with the Flames for another couple seasons.

His current deal ends after next year. By then, he should have that silver stick to hang somewhere in his home. So could teammates Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow.

"We were joking about it last night," said Conroy. "Bert (Todd Bertuzzi) said, 'Geez, three silver sticks in one year if everybody stayed healthy.' "

That doesn't mean Conroy will stop there.

"I still feel like I've got some years left," he said. "I feel good."

His coach agrees.

"Well, if he wants to play, he can play, because he can still skate," said Mike Keenan, who has had the pleasure of coaching Conroy in St. Louis and Calgary. "He enjoys the game. He likes being around the players. He certainly looks after himself."

He's had some luck, too.

To make it to 900 games in this league, you have to be healthy more often than not.

And your head has to be in the game.

"It's normally the mental strain that wears on you more than the physical strain," said Keenan. "Once it doesn't become enjoyable, and you lose the passion for the game, you can't play in today's NHL. It's too difficult."

Passion is something Conroy has plenty of.

"I want to play as long as I can before they kick me out of here," he said.


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