When I read Theo Fleury’smemoir, Playing With Fire(Triumph Books, 2009) this past week, I was very intrigued by his story and wanted to find out more. Needless to say, the man behind the hockey sports figure and writer is quite a fascinating person.
BIOGRAPHY (via Wikipedia):
Theoren Wallace “Theo” Fleury (born June 29, 1968) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player for the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL), Tappara of Finland’s SM-liiga, and the Belfast Giants of the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League. He was drafted by the Flames in the 8th round, 166th overall, at the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, and played over 1,000 games in the NHL between 1989 and 2003.
One of the smallest players of his generation, Fleury played a physical style that often led to altercations. As a junior, he was at the centre of the infamous Punch-up in Piestany, a brawl that resulted in the disqualification of both Canada and the Soviet Union from the 1987 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. Once considered unlikely to play in the NHL due to his small size, Fleury scored over 1,000 points in his career and won the Stanley Cup in 1989 with the Flames. He twice represented Canada at the Winter Olympics, winning a gold medal in 2002. Throughout his career, he battled drug and alcohol addictions that ultimately forced him out of the NHL in 2003, when he was only 35 years old. He played one successful season in the British Elite Ice Hockey League in 2005–06, and made two attempts to win the Allan Cup. After an unsuccessful NHL comeback attempt with the Flames, he retired in 2009.
Outside of hockey, Fleury overcame his addictions, operated a concrete business in Calgary with his family, and filmed a pilot for a reality television show based around it. He marketed his own brand of clothing, which led him to play two professional baseball games for the Calgary Vipers of the Golden Baseball League. In 1995, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and his annual charity golf tournament has helped raise more than $1 million for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada.
Fleury co-wrote Playing with Fire, a best-selling autobiography released in October 2009, in which he revealed that he had been sexually abused by former coach Graham James. Fleury filed a criminal complaint against James, who subsequently pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault. Fleury has since become an advocate for sexual abuse victims and developed a career as a public speaker.