'No-fun' Conroy all business

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:28 PM ET

Beer was a four-letter word for Craig Conroy this summer.

“I had a couple but not many,” the Calgary Flames centre said after Saturday’s session of training camp.

“I was no-fun Craig. That what (wife) Jessie called me.”

Anybody who’s spent even a minute with the always affable and upbeat Conroy knows it’s almost impossible to think of him being no fun.

But beer was a no-no during an off-season he decided to do pretty much everything possible to make the Flames roster, which meant watching his diet.

“If we were out at a wedding, I’d have one or two — but nothing crazy,” Conroy said. “Not that I drink much anyway, but I went weeks without drinks.”

And he worked out like never before.

At age 39, Conroy is nine games shy of 1,000 for his career, which is a meaningful goal to him.

He knew the first step to reaching that prestigious milestone was being in the best shape possible, and he reported at 188-lb. — six pounds lighter than a year ago.

He scored personal-best marks on some fitness tests, all to give him the best chance at another season and wash away a forgetful 2009-10 year.

“I had such a disappointing year and never want to go out like that. I’d hate to be that way for it to end — not feeling well, injured and playing terrible,” Conroy said. “No matter what happens, I feel comfortable saying, ‘I did everything I could possibly do’. If it works out — which I’m hoping — that’s great. If it doesn’t for some reason, I can feel I did my best.”

But Conroy was wise enough to understand a salary-cap friendly contract would be just as important as laying off the beer.

That’s why his two-way, US$500,000 deal — which would make him the lowest paid player on the team — has no bonus clauses, even though he’d be eligible for them for such things as game played.

Coming off a disappointing season in which he battled through three different injuries — wrist, knee and broken bone in his foot — and collected just three goals and 15 points in 63 games, that was the best he could hope for.

Then again, look at how many veterans are without deals or in camps on tryouts, including Brendan Morrison in Vancouver, Bill Guerin in Philadelpia and former Flames player Marcus Nilson in New Jersey.

Conroy was smart enough to realize it was best to swallow his pride.

“A lot of it is the way they treat me in Calgary — not just the organization but the city, in general,” Conroy said. “Could I have tried to do somewhere else and play? Probably. Would I want that? Not really. At this point in my career, that isn’t appealing. My family loves it here. I never thought of going anywhere.

“There are no guarantees, and what you’re looking for is a shot, and I feel they know me here.”

Still, he has all the feelings of a rookie.

“The bottom line is I just want to come in and do my best. But I always believe I’m going to make the team.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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