(WECK 1230) — I make no bones about Theo Fleury being one of my favorite hockey players of all-time. He was pugnacious and skillful, the sort of player I wanted to be in the NHL. Behind the scenes he was fighting the sort of personal demons so relentless that they drive some folks over the edge.
A substance abuser who was also sexually abused, Fleury’s 2009 book “Playing With Fire” details that fight bigger than hockey. This was my first chance to talk to Theo, so we touched on that as well as some expected honesty and wit about today’s NHL. Here are some highlights, and at the end I’ll paste in the entire audio interview.
On how the book helped him heal: “Yeah, because it wasn’t a secret anymore. A lot of times we’re only as sick as our secrets.”
On being an undersized hockey player: “When I look in the mirror, I don’t see somebody who’s small. I see somebody who has never been afraid of hard work. A guy that’s determined, a guy that’s passionate, caring, loving and all those things. All those things together in one package made me the player I was.”
On being driven to win, and being one of the few players with a Cup, a World Juniors title, a Canada Cup win and an Olympic gold: “I grew up playing hockey in Small Town, Canada. It just so happened that I was with a group of kids and a group of parents that we had a lot of fun together, but at the end of the day we were all passionate about winning. Every single rink I ever played in had a scoreboard… that means somebody’s gotta win and somebody’s gotta lose. I’d rather be on the winning side.”
On if the NHL needs to clean up the game: “Hockey is — what? — the 100-and-some-odd popular sport in the United States? We need to take the stigma of violence away from the game of hockey because hockey played well and hockey played skillful and hockey played hard is an amazing sport. Most people in the United States can’t skate or never played hockey before, they don’t fully understand the beauty of the sport and how much skill it takes to play the sport we play… The best player in the game has been out for three months with a concussion. We have a-ways to go, but I think there are lots of things we can to make the game safer and expose the game for the true talent that the game has.”
On the Buffalo Sabres: “I love their team. They probably have one of the best goaltenders in the league. I love their fight and I love their character. They’ve come from a long way back and it seems every single year they are right there til the end. Lindy Ruff has done a fantastic job… They’re fun to watch and I’ve always admired the heart and passion they do play with.”
On being personally lambasted by Canucks fans recently for critical comments he made about the Vancouver club’s fortunes: “It’s been a fun day. What people don’t realize is I no longer play the game. I have my own radio show in Calgary every Friday. We were talking about the playoffs and people asked my opinion on the Vancouver Canucks and I told them, like many things I’ve said in my life, how it is in my opinion and the Vancouver fans have plastered my Twitter page with all kinds of comments. They have crossed the line as well. I think it’s quite funny how some people react to certain. I love the passion the Canucks fans but on the other side of the coin, I always though trash talking was about being witty and clever and not personally attacking somebody. If you’re personally attacking someone, you’re not witty and you’re not clever.”