41 years old.
30 year anniversary of Calgary Flames franchise.
20 years since Flames won Stanley Cup.
10 years since Theoren Fleury last suited up for Flames.
1 month before Fleury’s new tell-all book released.
When I first heard of Fleury’s attempt at a comeback to the NHL after a 5 year hiatus, my first thought was: “Great, just great – just what the NHL needs – Claude Lemieux Part Deux!” Then the NHL announced that he was reinstated. Following that, the worst kept secret of the offseason was revealed as the Flames announced they were indeed inviting The Little Rat B@$t@r! to training camp.
James Mirtle (From The Rink) stated: “This could very well turn out to be the feel good story of the season, should a team take Fleury up on his comeback bid and allow him to suit up, six years later, in the NHL. But I think it’s also fairly clear that the popular former star is, financially speaking, not in the best place right now.”
Mirtle’s points are well taken at the time of print, but I cannot say I enjoy reading Fleury’s exact financial records over the past number of years. Do we really need to see that information to draw conclusions on these type situations?
In promotion of his FAKE clothing line, Fleury actually suited up for the minor league baseball’s Calgary Vipers in 2008. (Click here video clip of a Fleury at-bat).
With the impending release in October of his new book, “Playing With Fire”, I could not help but think this attempted comeback was yet another clever marketing ploy to get Theo’s name back in the sports headlines. If this was the intention – mission accomplished. However, the ever-sceptical sports fan in me has since been convinced there might just be more to this story.
Boomer (broadcaster on the FAN960) took clips from Fleury’s many interviews highlighting why he’s doing what he’s doing and the support he’s had throughout the process (Fleury Tribute – A Boomer Production)
From scoring in the shootout in his first preseason game to notching a goal and assist September 20th against the Panthers in his second preseason tilt, Fleury has come back with a “Fury” (title of his first book in 1997)!
I, like many Flames fans, have some unforgettable memories of Fleury highlights. The following Fleury celebration is one of hockey’s most recognizable goal celebrations, in a classic Flames-Oilers playoff battle. Fleury has also played key roles in international play for Canada, winning gold in: 1988 World Juniors, 1991 Canada Cup, and 2002 Olympics.
Fleury is one of the smallest bona fide star players to ever play in the NHL, and at such a high level. When he is not actively dealing with his demons, Theo had a rarely matched combination of intensity, passion, fearlessness, confidence and skill.
To be blunt, Fleury still has it in him to be a jerk. Captain Jarome Iginla passed Fleury as the Flames’ all-time scoring leader on March 1, 2009, scoring five points, including his 400th career goal. In various interviews I heard with Fleury at the time Iginla was about to break the record, Fleury was none too congratulatory. He stated in one interview, that he thought he could easily score 40 goals in today’s NHL. To be fair, nowadays, Fleury is saying all the right things and has nothing but glowing reports for his teammates.
Can Theo Fleury comeback and make a difference with the Flames to start the season? The jury is still out. A more likely scenario sees him starting out in Abbotsford (Flames’ new AHL affiliate) where he can get more playing time and get up to speed. He then might be a call-up option for the Flames. An outside chance scenario would have him make the team as a specialist-type forward. Long since past are the days when Fleury was a tenacious backchecker and flew all over the ice in the middle of seemingly every play. However, he appears to still have the hands and that natural innate offensive ability. With a powerplay that often fluttered last season and a record in the shootout that can be surely improved upon, Fleury may fit the bill as a PP and shootout specialist.
Chris is THW’s senior draft/prospect analyst and a Managing Editor. Watch for “The Next Ones” Prospect Profile series, exclusive rankings, mock drafts, as well as the annual THW NHL Entry Draft Guide. Follow @ChrisRalphYQ on Twitter as he infiltrates, dissects and analyzes all happenings of hockey prospects and the NHL entry draft. Email: cralph[at]thehockeywriters[dot]com