New Flames GM Craig Conroy’s job gets ‘a little easier’ with new arena

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As far as recruiting tools go, a new arena is hard to beat.

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Craig Conroy has heard it all about the Saddledome and, while he has a special place in his heart for the decades-old barn, the new Calgary Flames general manager is well aware of its faults, too.

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And so are others around the NHL.

With agreements in place for a new arena, though, Conroy believes the Flames should become a more attractive destination for players.

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“It’s a game-changer for the city, but it’s also a game-changer for (the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation),” Conroy said this week at a news conference announcing his promotion to the GM role. “It’s one thing that when I talk to agents and players and everything, it always comes up.

“I get defensive about it at times, but to know we have something coming, it’s going to be special and it’s going to help me do my job. It’s going to make it a little easier, to be honest.”

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Leaving the political and financial implications of the agreement with the city and provincial governments aside, it’s no surprise that the Flames’ new GM sees the new arena as a bonus for the hockey-side of the Flames organization.

It was only a month-and-a-half ago when MacKenzie Weegar said plainly that the Flames needed a new arena in his end-of-season news conference. Coming from a guy who was completing his first year in Calgary and is signed long-term, that quote felt like it was illustrative of how a lot of NHLers feel about the Saddledome.

Conroy also heard the comment loud-and-clear.

It wasn’t the first time he’d heard similar things from players. In fact, it was consistent with conversations he’s had with NHLers and their agents for years and years.

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And until very recently, he didn’t exactly have a satisfying answer for their questions about the arena in Calgary.

“I was overseas when Weegar mentioned the arena and the guys talk to me about it and I tell them ‘Guys, at (this) point where’s nothing I can do for the arena. This is what we have and we have to deal with it,’“ Conroy said.

Fortunately, Conroy and the Flames players likely won’t have to deal with the lack of amenities you’d expect from a modern arena for much longer. Last month’s announcement that the City of Calgary, CSEC and the province had come to an agreement on a new $1.22-billion arena — much of that money will go into redeveloping the surrounding area, too — means there are better times in a modern facility ahead.

A new arena should be built and ready a few years down the line and it’s not just Conroy who is excited about that.

“The text I got from all the guys right after, they’re pretty excited. Not one guy wasn’t,” Conroy said. “I think that will carry over to college free agents, (NHL) free agents and just to getting people here.

“When you have the best arena in the league, it makes huge, huge difference.”


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