by Scott MacDonald | AHL On The Beat
Erik Condra is no stranger to being a leader in the locker room. A veteran of over 350 games in the NHL and nearly 300 more in the American Hockey League, Condra has been doing it for quite some time now.
It’s one of the reasons he finds himself in Colorado.
At the start of the season, the 33-year-old forward was named an alternate captain of the Eagles. It’s a familiar position for Condra, who has now worn captaincy letters with each of his last three AHL organizations. He wore the “C” with the Syracuse Crunch for two seasons, before adorning the “A” on his chest with the Texas Stars last year.
He’s everything you’d want in a leader, and it’s one of the reasons why Colorado sought his services during the offseason. With a team whose average age is roughly 24, having that sort of veteran presence can make a world of difference to the development of the youth on the team.
“I think when we look back to what Joe (Sakic), Chris (McFarland) and myself wanted to build in terms of the personnel here, we wanted to make sure we surrounded our prospects with good character players,” said Eagles general manager and Colorado Avalanche assistant GM Craig Billington. “That comes in different looks and likes, forward and defense, but it also comes in players that have experience.
“You look at a guy like Erik, he’s worn a letter, won championships. He’s a real good guy for our youth to be around, and guy that can also help us win hockey games here. He’s come in and done a real nice job for us.”
Condra has come in and made an immediate impact on the young players in the locker room already. Starting up top with his head coach and throughout the lineup, from his fellow forwards to the guys on defense, everyone’s been impressed with the character and leadership he’s brought with him to Loveland.
“First of all, he’s a consummate professional,” said second-year Eagles head coach Greg Cronin. “He’s obviously very mature, great role model off the ice [and] he’s a presence on the ice. He’s calm, he’s got a coach-like mentality. He can go out on any line or on the power play and talk to the guys from an alternative view. He’s good about it, he’s not edgy about it; he’s not arrogant, he’s very humble. He’s terrific.”
When asked about what leadership looks like to him, Condra said it’s really all about integrity.
“I think always doing the right things,” he said of his leadership style. “You know you can’t lead if you’re not doing them yourself. No one’s going to listen to you, no one’s going to pay attention if you’re not doing the right things. And then having conversations, just getting to know people. You know the more you get to know them, the more trust you build.”
Condra added that he lends plenty of experience to the team and he hopes that he can help the younger guys on the roster in any way that he can while he’s here.
“I’ve been through the highs and the lows. It sometimes can be a grind in the AHL and sometimes you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s always that light —- I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the darkness and I’ve seen the light. There’s a lot of guys that can make it and a lot of guys that have the same skill set, but being a pro every day and taking care of yourself and your body and your teammates, people see that. If you do those little things every day, hopefully you start to rub off on some of the guys and help some of these guys get to the NHL.”
One of those guys he’s been rubbing off on is fellow Eagles forward and Avalanche prospect A.J. Greer, who has been skating on a line with Condra in the early parts of the season.
“He’s a great guy, everyone loves him here. He’s probably one of the best vets I’ve played with in my four years [as a] pro,” Greer said of Condra. “He takes care of everyone, makes sure that everyone’s good. He’s really a guy that’s comfortable in every situation. You know, he’ll help you out on and off the ice. He’s a guy that works really hard in practice and never gives up and kind of sets a standard for us young guys.”
Despite playing a different position, first-year pro defenseman Conor Timmins agrees that the altruistic vet has been a helping hand on and off the ice.
“Obviously he’s been around for a long time. He played a lot of NHL games and he’s just a good guy in the [locker] room,” Timmins said of Condra. “He’s a good guy to go to for anything whether it’s off ice or just little tips on ice. He’s just really been helpful.”
For Condra, he’s excited to join a talented young team and take the next step in his career in Colorado.
“You see the skill — they’re unbelievable players — and then the young guys that we have here in the organization, they’ve done a good job of stockpiling the cupboards,” Condra said of joining the Eagles. “They’re fast, they can play and I’m excited about this year.”
As the sun begins to set on the horizon of Condra’s career, he’s less worried about statistics and setting records than he is about settling down and finding the right spot for him at this stage of his life and hockey career. It’s safe to say that he’s certainly found a fit in the Eagles’ locker room, and in a broader since, he’s found an even better fit in Colorado.
“I think as I’m getting older, I have a family and I want to be a great spot for my family as well as myself. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Colorado, Fort Collins and Loveland and the Colorado Eagles fans and community. That was one of the reasons why I picked here. I wanted to be in a good spot, a good city and this was high on my list.”