When Craig Conroy was drafted in the 6th round (123rd overall) in 1990, expectations for the smallish center's future probably weren't great. Even Conroy could never have dreamed his future in hockey would turn out so well.
Moreover, Conroy would grow into a reputation as an exemplary hockey player, class act and one of hockey's true nice guys that everyone should be looking up to.
Born in Potsdam, New York, Craig was the son of Mike Conroy, a minor league player who appeared in 4 games with the WHA. He would follow his father's footsteps and star at Clarkson University. He would help the Knights with the ECAC title and in 1994 was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award as the top player in US college hockey.
Although he was an offensive star at Clarkson, the Canadiens, like they have done - often successfully - time and again, sent him to the minor leagues to turn him into a defensive specialist. Hey, at least the Canadiens had plans for him. In his first NHL training camp he accidentally fired a slap shot which caught ace goalie Patrick Roy in the head. The result - a fight between the team's superstar and the unknown rookie.
After a couple of strong seasons in the minor leagues (and a handful of call up games in Montreal), Conroy was part of the huge Pierre Turgeon trade to St. Louis. With the Blues Conroy would immediately find a home and become a solid NHL citizen.
Under coach Joel Quenneville Conroy emerged as a top defensive center with the Blues. In 1997-98 he was a finalist for both the Selke trophy and the Lady Byng, as the league's most gentlemanly player. A faceoff specialist, he also chipped in 43 points.
Conroy played 5 seasons in St. Louis before being traded to Calgary at the trading deadline in 2001. It was not a popular trade at the time, as Calgary moved one of their few top offensive gunners in Cory Stillman to the Blues in exchange.
But a funny thing happened early in the next season. Conroy showed great chemistry with Flames superstar Jarome Iginla. He would serve as Iginla's long time centerman. Conroy's own offensive contributions spiked while Flames fans quickly learned to appreciate his defensive contributions.
Aside from a one year free agent sabbatical with the Los Angeles Kings, Conroy would be one of Calgary's most popular players - both on the ice and in the community - right through some diminishing years and his exit in the 2010-11 season.
In 1009 NHL games Craig Conroy scored 182 goals and 360 goals for 542 career points. He added 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 81 Stanley Cup playoff contests. He was an underrated player when he played and is destined to remain so in history's eyes.