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Conroy ready to have Clarkson hockey jersey retired

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POTSDAM — Craig Conroy always seems to be smiling.

But his smile is sure to be even bigger tonight when he becomes just the fourth player in the 91-year history of the Clarkson University men’s hockey program to have his jersey number retired.

Shortly before tonight’s nonconference game against Holy Cross at Cheel Arena, Conroy’s No. 7 jersey will be unveiled in the rafters, joining Dave Taylor (24), Craig Laughlin (22) and Colin Patterson (25).

A Potsdam native, Conroy went to Clarkson games as a child at Walker Arena and followed his father, Mike, and uncles Terry Conroy and Tom Taylor in a Clarkson uniform when he joined the program in the 1990-91 season.

“I view the Conroy’s as the first family of Clarkson hockey,” said Clarkson’s all-time leading scorer Dave Taylor, who is not related to Tom Taylor. “They have a father, son, uncles playing. All of them represent the university in a first-class manner.”

Conroy visited the campus Friday and spoke briefly to this year’s team before conducting some video and radio interviews.

“The dream come true is when I got to play at Clarkson, to play at the old Walker Arena and then when I got to play here at Cheel,” Conroy said. “That was really my goal in hockey. Now, to be able to have my jersey go to the rafters with the likes of Dave Taylor, Patterson and Laughlin, it’s very special. Those are people I grew up idolizing when I was a young boy.”

Conroy’s dream may have been to play at Clarkson, but he surpassed that by bunches. He scored 167 points in 140 games at Clarkson and in his senior year (1993-94), he was runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award after recording 26 goals and 39 assists in 34 games.

A young assistant coach on that Clarkson team was current Golden Knights head coach Casey Jones.

“I remember someone who was pretty dominant as a college hockey player,” Jones said. “That year he was as good a player as we’ve seen anywhere in the country. He was a fantastic person and a great role model in the community. He embraced the fact that he was local, and he gave everybody the amount of time they wanted.”

Conroy moved on from Clarkson to a lengthy NHL career, playing in 1,009 games and scoring 182 goals. He played in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals and skated in the 2006 Olympics. Most of his career was with the Calgary Flames, where he works as a special assistant to the general manager. He also played for the Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings.

“Ever since he was young, he worked hard to achieve everything he’s done,” said Mike Conroy, who played at Clarkson from 1970-73. “He’s achieved all this just totally through hard work. He wasn’t the most gifted player. He knew from day one if I want to do this I have to work hard, not just on the ice but off the ice, too. He just loves it.”

Said Clarkson athletic director Steve Yianoukos, “He is a perfect example of what we should be doing.”

Conroy was the subject of a special ceremony in Calgary when he played in his 1,000th game, so he knows what kind of emotions to expect tonight.

“It was a dream come true to just play there, to walk into Walker Arena and hear that pep band going, and now (the jersey) is in Cheel and it’s going to be there forever. Long after I’m gone that jersey is going to be hanging, which is exciting,” Conroy said.

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