Conroy shows his stripes

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

While teammates were spread out across the world relaxing over the break, Craig Conroy was stuck in Calgary, working hard at getting healthy.

It just so happens the Calgary Flames centre spent plenty of time in front of the television watching his fellow countrymen play hockey.

Although Conroy was one of the first players off the ice from practice Wednesday as the Flames resumed skating, it was because he wanted to catch the end of the U.S. vs. Switzerland Olympic playoff game and not due to a variety of ailments.

The Potsdam, N.Y., native still has plenty of national pride despite not getting named to the men's Olympic team, but he was torn when the U.S. beat Canada because he lives in this country.

"I love their goaltending, but I didn't pick them to win a medal," Conroy said about Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller, who shut out the Swiss 2-0 as the Americans advanced to the semifinals.

"He's the best goalie in the tournament right now. You watch every game and he's making huge saves. This one, as well, he was making big saves down the stretch.

"It's tough to get a shutout, and he did. There is a reason why I wish he was there when I was playing (for the 2006 Olympic team).

"Everyone is working hard, and it looks like they've come together as a team."

The 10-day break from skating has helped Conroy recover from a variety of injuries that have slowed him down in his eighth season with the Flames.

Both Conroy and fellow injured forward Rene Bourque were back on the ice Wednesday as everyone, but the Olympic participants -- Miikka Kiprusoff, Niklas Hagman and Jarome Iginla -- took part in action.

Although Conroy feels ready to play after missing 10 straight games with a knee injury, he will have to crack a lineup that now boasts 15 forwards.

"I just have to battle," Conroy said. "It's been that way my whole career. Everywhere you go, it's like that. You have to come in and work as hard as you can and do something that will separate yourself.

"This is the first time in a long time that my wrist feels good. My broken foot was probably not healed in a week. Now that feels good, and with my knee, it feels like everything is healed up, so I'm looking forward to a great 20 games."

Conroy was a young hockey fan when the U.S. pulled off one of the greatest upsets in history by beating the Russians at Lake Placid in 1980.

Although it was 30 years ago, the Miracle on Ice feels just like yesterday to Conroy, who was an hour and a half down the road in Potsdam when that happened.

"I remember sitting on my grandma's couch watching that," said the 38-year-old Conroy. "I was jumping up and down screaming 'Holy cow!' I never thought we could beat Russia.

"I was nine years old, but there wasn't a chance. That was when you could watch all the games leading up and they were losing by 10 goals. You said, 'It's impossible.' "

Those Olympics had quite an impact on Conroy, who remembers people staying in Potsdam and commuting to Lake Placid because of a lack of accommodations.

When Conroy reached high-school age, he went to Northwood School in Lake Placid, where they would play games at the same Olympic arena. The Miracle on Ice was constantly played in the lobby.

"I would see it every day," Conroy said. "It's still a pretty big deal."


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