SUN Hockey Pool

TV tune-up for Conroy?

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Craig Conroy is getting a taste of life after hockey.

At least as a player.

His fans should get used to it.

With one more year on his current contract with the Calgary Flames, the end is creeping ever closer.

Although he posted impressive offensive numbers worth of the local Masterton Trophy nod and has said repeatedly he'd accept one-year deals until the team kicks him out of the game altogether, it's hard to imagine Conroy playing into his 40s.

It's not difficult to picture him doing what hundreds of thousands of viewers witnessed this weekend.

The affable 37-year-old Flames centre has been a guest on the TSN panel.

Last night, he popped up between periods of the Detroit Red Wings/Anaheim Ducks and the Boston Bruins/Carolina Hurricanes playoff games.

Touching on his personal battles with Ducks pest Corey Perry and the playoff goal-scoring prowess of Johan Franzen -- who ousted the Flames in overtime during Game 6 in the first round of the 2007 playoffs -- Conroy offered his opinion alongside regulars Bob McKenzie, Darren Pang and host James Duthie.

Accepting some abuse from his fellow panelists, Conroy took it all with a smile.

"Hope you want to come back," Pang joked at one point.

There's little doubt Conroy will want to.

There's even less doubt networks will be lining up to grab the 60-words-a-minute speaker when his playing days are over.

Unlike Matthew Barnaby, who sometimes seems to feel the need to be controversial, Conroy can offer insight with a splash of humour.

His take on Perry was priceless.

Watching a clip of Perry clipping him in the face with his stick, Conroy didn't hide his feelings. But he did deliver them with a grin.

"I hate playing that guy," said Conroy, also calling him a wrecking ball.

The panel suggested it was an accident.

"Not with him," Conroy shot back, adding Perry did apologize once he saw the eight or nine stitches his opponent took as a result. "That made me feel a lot better."

A career in broadcasting will likely make Conroy feel pretty good when he finally hangs up his skates.

Set to earn another million bucks next season, his last year on the two-year pact he signed last summer, money isn't a driving factor for his hockey career these days.

As long as the Flames want him, he wants to keep playing.

But with some talented young prospects waiting in the wings, his return is no guarantee after the 2009-10 NHL campaign.

Weighing in Saturday with his thoughts on Evgeni Malkin and re-living some painful memories of the Flames' first-round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks during his TSN appearance, Conroy looked comfortable if not quite as entertaining as he can be inside the locker-room.

That full transfer will come with time.

He didn't become an offensive factor in the NHL until his first full year with the Flames, his eighth season in the league.

Converting to the small screen shouldn't take nearly as long.


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