Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Gone Rangers: Theo Fleury

This episode of The Gone Rangers - a recurring series about former Ranger players - talks about Theo Flurrey.

Before there was Sean Avery - a volatile, somewhat unstable hard working fan favorite with a link to fashion - there was... Theo Fleury.

Fleury - a small but stocky and feisty right winger amassed more than 1,000 points in his NHL career. He was a Ranger for just 3 seasons - his best being 2000-2001 where he had 30 goals and 44 assists (for 74 points). Earlier for the Calgary Flames he twice had 100 point seasons. He was the smallest player in the NHL for several seasons. He was famous as a young man for starting a hockey fight in the 1987 World Junior Championships that resulted in both Canada and Russia being ejected from that tournament.

Theo's story was compelling and ultimately heartbreaking. He was an exciting player to watch - he gave all he had for the Ranger Blue - and had true moments of brilliance as a hockey player - but in the end he fell victim to his own inner demons. After fighting his drug and alcohol addictions and failing - multiple times - the league had no choice but to ban Fleury for violating the league's drug policy.

Theo is reportedly clean and sober now and started his own clothing line. He's been off of drugs and alcohol for several years now- and his hockey story would likely have ended there.

But these hockey players - they play the game from early childhood and it's hard to just walk away from it - especially when his NHL career ended with a ban and against Theo's will.

Lately, Fleury has been playing in a senior league - and dominating. So much so, in fact, that he's thinking about another try at the NHL.

Is this crazy?

Well, he's 41. There are very few players who can produce at the NHL level at that age. Especially when the player has had substance abuse issues and has been out of hockey for years.
Plus there's the NHL ban to overcome.

But despite the long odds - Fleury wants another try. And he's hired a personal trainer to get him back in hockey shape.

So - the real question is - should the Rangers invite him to camp?

My vote is - why the puck not? If the man can't skate with the big boys anymore - it will become obvious pretty quickly. In that case it was just a nice gesture from a classy organization trying to help a man who is getting his life back together.

But if Theo still has something in the tank - he could be a nice extra player for a team looking to stay under the cap. And it's a great feel-good story.

So come on Slats. Come on Torts. Give the guy a look. It costs nothing and it could actually save you money if he sticks. And it's just the right thing to do.

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