SYRACUSE, NY – Succeeding as a professional athlete, in any sport, is not for the faint of heart. It takes an unimaginable amount of hard work and dedication even to earn an opportunity, and there are thousands of individuals in search of that same opportunity.
Imagine being a professional hockey player who just celebrated his 31st birthday and is still searching for a chance to crack the roster of a National Hockey League team this season. You have spent time back and forth between the big league and the minor league for most of your career, spending a good portion of last season as a key contributor in the American Hockey League. That dream of being a mainstay on an NHL roster seems to dwindle more and more each day, but you can’t afford to give up hope.
That is the exact spot that Erik Condra finds himself going into this season. He is in the third year of his three-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning and only spent 13 games with the big club last season. Most of his time was spent lacing his skates for the Syracuse Crunch, playing in 55 games and serving as a key contributor in the team’s deep playoff run. Condra managed to tally 15 goals and 33 assists during the regular season for Syracuse, adding another five goals and 11 assists in the postseason.
As is the case with every player, Condra hopes that this will be the year he can get back to the NHL roster full-time. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are quite slim. The Lightning franchise is stacked when it comes to promising forwards and that uncontrollable age factor does not sway things in Condra’s favor. At the age of 31, he is the oldest of the group hoping to make the Bolts’ roster this season. Although Condra may have what it takes to play in the NHL full-time, the franchise may want to give that roster spot to a younger player who may play a bigger role in the team’s future.
Although this will inevitably be hard for Condra to swallow, the Crunch will be pleased to keep him as their captain as they hope to bring home that Calder Cup that they got so close to winning this past June. Condra will have the opportunity to play some big minutes and serve as a mentor to some of the younger forwards taking the ice for Syracuse this season.
Condra will not give up on his goal of getting back into the NHL full-time, and it may very well happen down the road. Unfortunately, the current situation in Tampa Bay makes that an unlikely occurrence this season. Still, look for Condra to have a significant impact on what looks to be a successful 2017-18 season for the Crunch.