I watched the “Theoren Fleury: Playing With Fire” documentary tonight that has Theo taking us back to when he started on his downhill spiral and eventual crash and burn, to the streets of New York where he went crazy with booze, broads, gambling, and lots of lines of coke.
This was a tortured soul, and a guy who wasn’t exactly Ken Dryden or Scrooge McDuck when it came to money. He once spent more than a million bucks during one weekend of debauchery. This is a guy who earned $50 million playing hockey, and is broke today.
As Fleury takes us along the lonely streets of New York, we stop at Madison Square Garden, where he played for three years, and they wouldn’t let him in. We then tag along as Fleury moves to Chicago, where he also played and partied, and at the United Center, he wasn’t let in there either.
It’s a dark film, there are no laughs or upbeat moments, and I suppose that’s why it’s so riveting. Fleury bares his soul, tells it like it was, had few friends on the team, was an unlikeable sort, and hung around with undesirables who happened to have a lot of drugs. His first wife said he was a lousy father, broke promises to his young son, and later when the kid was 16, Theo introduced him to dad’s seedy world. She described seeing her son in this situation like knitting a sweater for 16 years and then watching the wool unravel.
Fleury says he disliked being a contestant on CBC’s Battle of the Blades, that the show was basically scripted and the winner pre-determined, and said he’d never do it again. But he was also a guy who hated to lose, and maybe it’s just a bit of sour grapes on his part. Interesting if it really is scripted though.
He also believes he should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be.
Theoren Fleury seems tired, ragged, unhappy, with a look of the hard street about him. It’s quite sad when you compare him to other great players whose lives are a bowl of cherries now. He was a star player, a small man who did big things, but the abuse by his junior coach Graham James obviously has taken its toll. He was out of control, contemplated suicide while living in Santa Fe, ended up going to A.A., and it seems this is going to be a long and winding road to recovery for this great player.
Someone on the show said you either love Theo Fleury or you hate him. I have no idea, but I admired him as a player on the ice throughout his whole career. The smallest guy in the league showing that size didn’t matter. He hit, fought, went in the corners, skated like the wind, and collected 1088 points in 1084 games. He really was a great and colourful player.
It’s quite a documentary and well-worth checking out. This is a guy with demons, but he’s working on it.