Sure, scoring another NHL goal was a hope.
But Craig Conroy wasn’t sure whether he’d play another NHL game.
Not a few months ago.
Not even a few days ago.
“Good point. I didn’t know. Especially reading your guys’ stuff. You guys were killing me,” the Calgary Flames veteran said with a smile. “I knew I just had to bide my time, try to get in there and do something when I did.
“To score is extra special because you don’t know. I’m going to enjoy every one as we go along.”
When you’re 39 years old, playing on a two-way contract for the league minimum, any moment you have left is worth savouring.
Conroy, the former captain who wasn’t sure where his career was heading as training camp wound down and especially after being a healthy scratch in the season opener, came up with a moment to relish with a fine cigar and snifter of cognac in Sunday night’s 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles kings.
On a night he received the third loudest ovation from the Saddledome faithful during the home opener’s introductions — behind goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and captain Jarome Iginla — Conroy scored the 181st goal of his career, which has now reached regular-season Game 992.
“Nice to get it out of the way,” said Conroy, whose first goal last season came Dec. 30, in Game 39. “I got one before Iggy. That’s a big deal for me.
I haven’t been able to say that in a long time.”
With the Flames leading 1-0, Conroy scored the difference-maker 80 seconds into the final frame. What appeared to be a harmless wrister from the top of the circle went into the top corner behind Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier.
“I heard (Niklas) Hagman yelling, ‘shoot, shoot’ and
I knew no one was with me, so I got over the blueline and took a shot,” Conroy said. “I didn’t even see it go in. I saw the red light go on and thought, ‘That went in?’ It surprised me more than anything. I don’t know if I’ve scored from out there with a wrist shot in a long time.”
It took a long time for him to celebrate, too. Not a single teammate was in the offensive zone.
“I like to jump into other people and stuff. It was awkward. It felt like I was the only guy on the ice,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘This is weird. Where are my guys?’ Finally (T.J.) Brodie skated up the ice and
I gave him a big hug.”
The relief was understandable.
Conroy is at the point where he doesn’t know how many more NHL games he’ll play. That’s life when you could be in the lineup one day and in the press box the next.
“If you don’t do anything, you’re probably going to come out (of the lineup),” he said. “You want to prove you can help the team and do some things. I thought it was going to be more just faceoffs and stuff like that.
“I just wanted to go in there and do the best I could, but not worry and have fun.”