Flames finally come out 'n' play

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:07 PM ET


 Craig Conroy remembers it well.

 The buzz about town.

 The electricity at the rink.

 And all the talk was hockey with the two teams already well into the playoffs.

 "Game 7, at home. I was pretty excited," Conroy said. "It was a good time."

 But it could have been better.

 Way better.

 It wasn't his Calgary Flames sharing the experience of the do-or-die game.

 He was relegated to fan status.

 "It was last year," recalled the Flames assistant captain, "and Dave Lowry and I went to Vancouver to watch Game 7 of St. Louis and Vancouver.

 "We went to the game. It was tough to watch, boy. But it was fun. Even though we weren't in the playoffs, you can remember how much fun that atmosphere was and that's what I'm looking forward to in the next couple of weeks here."

 Win or lose, it certainly beats the alternative.

 For Conroy, fellow Flames and those who came before them, the last seven Aprils have meant an end to the season without playoffs. For most, it meant packing up to return to their respective homes across North America.

 "You feel so much better going into the last couple of games (of the regular season)," said veteran Flames winger Chris Clark, "because you still have something to play for and you're gearing up to try and peak at the right time of the year."

 Of course, the right time of the year is now, on the eve of a new Stanley Cup playoff race. And just hearing the word 'playoffs' puts an ear-to-ear grin on the faces of the Flames.

 "It's a huge part of the game and a big reason why we play," said Clark with a smile.

 So the movers can wait and the packing can be put on hold.

 "It feels good because you don't know when your last game is going to be," Conroy said.

 "Every year, we knew our last game was going to be April 4 or April 7 or whatever day it was when the schedule ended and that's a very bad feeling.

 "This year, there's no timetable. When you lose your last game, that's when you're done. Or win your last game ..."


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