Over two decades later, the number remains as familiar as the signature 22 above the nameplate on the back of his Calgary Flames jersey through those many winters.
“Eight-fifty-seven,’’ said Craig Conroy, reminiscing. “Kirkwood, Missouri. A little cul-de-sac, right at the back of town. Very private.
“I guess you never forget your first house. I think I spent $480,000 and sold it for $600,000-something.
“I remember being so nervous when I bought it. You’re thinking, ‘Holy cow! How am I ever going to pay for this?’ I was making $25,000, $27,500, $30,000 CAD in Fredericton. Luckily, I was up for contract the next year.”
After retiring in 2011 as one of the most gregarious and popular players in Flames history, and one of the key components of the team’s amazing 2004 run to the Stanley Cup final, Conroy is entering his seventh season in management. For the last four, he has served as the team’s assistant general manager.
Conroy has, by his own count, purchased five houses over the course of a career that took him from Fredericton, to Montreal, to Worcester, Mass., to St. Louis, to Calgary, to Los Angeles and finally back to Calgary.
For a professional athlete, the possibility of having to pack up and relocate with little notice is part of the lifestyle.
“When you’re rolling into a new city for four or five days after being traded, you’re buying something,’’ said Conroy. “You need to find something in short order. And you learn – just in case – the most important thing is resale.
“When you’re rolling into a new city for four or five days after being traded, you’re buying something. You need to find something in short order. And you learn – just in case – the most important thing is resale.” – Craig Conroy, Calgary Flames assistant GM
“You just never know in hockey. So sometimes you have to pay a little more to be in certain areas, but it makes a world of difference when you get a phone call, suddenly you’re gone, and you can sell your house quickly.”
Developing a hockey-fraternity pipeline to cope with changing area codes is key.
“When I first came to Calgary, for instance, I talked to Al (MacInnis) and he said, ‘Hey, you should look at these areas.’ Jackie (MacInnis’s wife) helped out, too. It’s nice that you have those kinds of resources.
“When you’re young, you want bigger. As you get older, at least for me, that isn’t such a major deal. Nice kitchen, for sure.
“Location is important, of course. When we came back, we were looking for inner-city – close to downtown, somewhere I could get in and out of the dome relatively quickly.”
During the summer months, after the entry draft and start of free agency on July 1, Conroy, his wife Jessie, and daughters Taylor, Sydney and Sophia head to a property in Henderson Harbour, NY – about 140 kilometres from where Conroy grew up in Potsdam.
But that first house, 857, remains special.
“We still have good friends living in Kirkwood,” said Conroy. “To get to their place, when we visit, we have to pass right by our first house. So of course you’re curious.
“I never get out of the car, though. Because, like I said, being at the back of a cul-de-sac, people might see me checking it out and wonder, ‘who’s that shady-looking guy?’ ”