June 14, 2012
Conroy assists in scoring Gelinas
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI AGENCY
Martin Gelinas scored the job. Craig Conroy deserves the assist.
The germination of Gelinas returning to the Calgary Flames as an assistant coach came during this year’s AHL playoffs.
Gelinas, who has spent the last three years as the director of player development for the Nashville Predators, was on the ice with Milwaukee Admirals players for a practice during their series against the Abbotsford Heat.
Conroy, who was on-hand in his role as special assistant to the GM for the Flames, was watching from the stands.
“He looked right at home,”
Conroy recalled. “He was having fun and they were all working hard. I went to see Marty to say hello, but in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘That was interesting.’
“I kept it in the back of my mind.”
When newly hired head coach Bob Hartley took the reins in Calgary and let it be known what he was looking for in an assistant coach to round out the Flames staff, Conroy figured the time had come to mention his former teammate as a potential candidate.
“(Hartley) said what he was looking for and I was thinking, check, check, check, check,” Conroy said. “The one thing lacking was coaching experience, but everything else on that list fit Marty to a T.”
Before you know it, the affable left winger — known as The Eliminator for scoring three series-clinching goals in the club’s 2004 playoff run — was back with the Flames.
“I wasn’t even sure if Marty would be interested,” Conroy said. “I’d never spoken to him (about coaching), but I was hoping he would be interested. I didn’t even have time to say, ‘Have you talked to them?’ It moved so fast.”
That’s how a first-time assistant coach can be hired without any links to the bench boss.
“Connie’s always positive and always said, ‘You’ve got to come back (to the Flames organization).’ He knows I live here and knows this is my city,” Gelinas said.
“Fortunately, it was the right step to go to Nashville — I’m truly blessed David Poile gave me the chance to work in the NHL — and this was the right fit.”
Certainly, Gelinas has shown the ability to help young players but he also has credibility with veterans, having one Stanley Cup title to his name and been to the finals on three other occasions, including the spring of 2004 with current Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
“Oh, he’s happy. He loves Marty,” Conroy said of Iginla’s reaction to the news. “Jarome has so much respect for Marty because of how hard he worked and how he is. He’s the kind of guy who’ll say, ‘This is what you need to do,’ but he’s going to help you do it.”
By the way, Gelinas does have one tie to the rest of the Flames coaching staff.
He and associate coach Jacques Cloutier were teammates for half of the 1993-94 season with the Quebec Nordiques.
“He was my driver,” Gelinas recalled. “We and Jocelyn Thibault, we were all living in the same neighbourhood, so we’d drive together.
“I can’t remember who got the coffee, but I’ll pick up the coffee now. I’m the rookie.”