Pro hockey: Potsdam's Conroy takes Calgary Flames GM post, says job has always been goal
May 23—CALGARY, Alberta — Potsdam native Craig Conroy, a former Clarkson standout, was named the general manager of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
Conroy, who is 51, has been Calgary's assistant general manager for the last nine years and played nine seasons with Calgary, retiring as a player after the 2010-11 season.
He becomes the second former Clarkson player to be an NHL general manager, joining Jarmo Kekalainen, who played at Clarkson from 1987-89 and is the Columbus Blue Jackets general manager.
"My family, they put up with a lot," Conroy said at his press conference Tuesday. "Everyone says I am nice. I need to be a little crazy somewhere, so I am crazy at home. They've always been there, and they know this is my dream, and it's only going to get busier from here."
Conroy's biggest dream is to hoist a Stanley Cup. He came close as a player as his Flames team lost the 2004 final to Tampa Bay in seven games.
Winning a Stanley Cup was even a factor in what Conroy, who is married to Watertown's Jessica Costanzo and has three daughters, did after retiring as a player.
He said he thought of joining the media in some form, and he also was once offered the head coaching job at Clarkson, but neither of those opportunities offered him a chance to win a Stanley Cup.
Calgary missed the playoffs by two points this season, finishing with 93 points.
"Behind the scenes there is so much more that goes on," Conroy said of NHL operations. "I just sat there and took it all in. I was like a sponge. I've gotten to touch all aspects, so I have a good feel, in my mind, of what's going on. Moving forward, the next step for me was this. I will do everything in my power to bring a Stanley Cup here.
"My goal was to become a general manager. I always thought it wasn't going to be Calgary, but Calgary was the team job for me. I'm ready to accept this next challenge and promise our fans I will do everything I can to being another Stanley Cup here."
Calgary has become home for Conroy, who remembers how difficult it was when he was traded from St. Louis there in the 2000-01 season.
"We won the president's trophy in St. Louis the year before and we had a really good team," Conroy said. "I thought we were poised (to win). I got a call and I was traded and it was a shock. My wife was crying. We loved St. Louis. I looked at the standings and saw (Calgary) wasn't going to make the playoffs. I got here and the day I got here they made a coaching change. It wasn't the warm reception I thought I was going to get. As soon as I got here, the first week, just meeting people around the city, coming to the rink, being with the guys, I thought this might be a good fit and I signed a three-year deal."
For Don Maloney, the hockey operations president of the Flames, promoting Conroy was an easy decision.
"You hear the passion in his voice and the energy and drive and commitment to Calgary," Maloney said. "As I went through this process I kept coming back to Craig. He's got character, integrity, passion, knowledge of our organization. He checked all the boxes."
Conroy must get started quickly as the Flames need to hire a new head coach and address other matters in the near future.
"There's a lot of work to be done," Conroy said. "We just started getting ready for the draft. The next thing would be the coach search and we have to talk to all the players. It is going to be busy and we have to get moving pretty quickly.
"The biggest thing as a general manager is asset management. We have seven unrestricted free agents. I want to get where they are at. We are going to look at all those options. We did underachieve. I was shocked we didn't make the playoffs. It's unacceptable and that starts with us. We will look at everything and make those decisions. With the guys we have here we can definitely make the playoffs. I want people that want to be part of the Calgary Flames, who want to be here and do something special here."