Tag Archives: Theoren Fleury

If It’s Wednesday, It Must Be Calgary

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I know, the pictures aren’t great. The ones I was hoping to use are a bit blurry.

That’s the Calgary Saddledome behind Gaston, taken from my son’s street.

Maybe it’s because I’m blurry. Eight hours from Nelson to Calgary. It’s that number 3 highway. I felt just a few more miles and I’d end up in the Twilight Zone.

We’re at my son’s place in downtown Calgary, on a warm, sunny day, and aside from the above whining, things are great. I haven’t seen my son in over two years, and he looks good. He’s a martial arts guy who loves the Habs.

Calgary remains a bittersweet place for me. I went through a divorce here, but it’s a nice place regardless. Anyway, it was a long time ago and I never would have ended up with Luci if that nightmare from so long ago hadn’t happened. So I think I’ll embrace this vibrant city.

Thank you Calgary.

Even though I had a slew of terrible jobs here, including home delivery milkman. I also had several trucking jobs and I worked in the Safeway warehouse where I assembled boxes of bananas to be shipped to stores. Often I kicked myself for moving from Ottawa.

Years ago when my first wife and I brought a Russian couple over for a visit, I contacted the Calgary Flames and they were amazing. It was a novelty for all concerned. They gave the couple a team-autographed stick. They brought us to a closed Flames practice where GM Doug Risebrough came up and said hello. They took us down by ice level and my Russian friends had their picture taken with Theoren Fleury, who had just come off the ice. And they gave us four tickets to two separate Flames games.

Because of all this, it’s very difficult for me to say anything bad about the Calgary Flames organization.

I’m sorry but I have to cut this short. My son’s internet isn’t working and so I had to slip out to a restaurant to get this done. But I need to get back. I only have a few hours to spend with him.

Tomorrow the car is pointed toward Saskatchewan. Maybe we’ll make Regina. Maybe not.

Please check in and I’ll let you know. Your guess is as good as mine.

Habs Need Eyesight Checked

The Canadiens fought back in the third period to erase a two-goal Buffalo lead, but lost 3-2 in overtime with two seconds left in a P.K. Subban high-sticking penalty, which was a borderline call by any stretch. And it wasn’t even Chris Lee officiating.

So their winning streak ends at five, but they got a point, and the best thing to do now is start a brand new five-game streak. Or an elusive six-game beauty. They’ve been rebounding all year and they’ll let this slide off them like water off a White-winged Scoter duck.

It wasn’t the most exciting game ever played, but the Habs did make people sit up in their seats after they’d removed much of the rust that had blanketed them early on. They took over, and in the third period Brendan Gallagher did all the work on Max Pacioretty’s goal, and Alex Galchenyuk set up Colby Armstrong’s marker which tied things up.

If I could’ve stood up and cheered I would have. But I’m a bit crippled right now so I had to mostly just smile and maybe grimace slightly.

The kids were involved, especially Gallagher, and TSN’s Ray Ferraro compared our guy to a young Theoren Fleury. Small but plays big. Has all kinds of fire and oodles of talent. I hadn’t thought of this comparison before and I like it.

Hopefully down the road, Gallagher won’t blow a million bucks in one weekend on wine, women, song and a few other things, like Fleury did.

But things should never have been as tight as it was on this night at the Bell Centre. Montreal outshot the Sabres 34-21, including 11-2 in the second period, and aside from that, they missed the net close in way too many times. I don’t think there’s any excuse. They’re trying to thread the needle and they’re missing the mark. I hate that.

Maybe some of guys are spending way too much time on hand-held video games and their eyesight is getting damaged. Michel Therrien may want to monitor the video use on the team. Missing the net more than twenty times was ridiculous and the Habs should have won this game by a healthy margin and been sitting at six straight. Imagine all the rebounds that didn’t happen.

Random Notes:

Habs are on Long Island on Thursday to take on the Islanders. The last time these two met, the Islanders won 6-3, but Montreal began their five-game winning streak just after.

Brian Gionta had a fair amount of zip tonight.

Thanks to all the well-wishers about my back problem. I’ve really done a number on myself here and can barely walk. It’s not the first time I’ve put my back out, but this is one of the most serious I think. But as I say many times, I’m from Orillia, where men are men etc.

 

 

“The Hockey News” From 1988

In a box in my closet I found a few old issues of The Hockey News from 1988, and here’s a sampling of things mentioned:

“We’re so used to this against Montreal, but we’re not complaining.” – Quebec Nordique GM Maurice Filion after an apparent tying goal was waved off against Montreal Feb. 29.

Consumer crusader Ralph Nader lobbied NHL president John Ziegler in an attempt to keep ticket prices down. FANS (Fight to Advance the Nation’s Sports), a group headed by Nader, cited the average ticket price for an NHL game at $7.87, which Nader said was “the most difficult to justify of all the major sports.” (Note from me – Originally I thought this had to be a typo, so I dug through old ticket stubs and I see that it was very possible. I have a Habs-Bruins stub at the Forum that was ten bucks. And various other stubs I have from the late 1980s ranged from ten to fourteen and upwards around twenty bucks. So maybe $7.87 isn’t completely farfetched. Just seems too cheap, that’s all).

“When Borje and the other Swedes went to the NHL, took all the crap and didn’t come home in a box,” said Mats Naslund, “we all knew we had a chance to play in the NHL.”

After Steve Yzerman scored his 50th goal – against Sabre goalie Tom Barrasso – he fished the puck out of the net. Then, inexplicably, he tossed it into the crowd on his way back to the Detroit bench. “I just thought someone else might appreciate it (as a keepsake) more than me,” Yzerman said. “I have the memory of it, and I’ll never forget it. I don’t need the puck. But he was destined to get it anyway. Jacques Demers chased down the fan who caught it, and traded him another puck and a stick for it. The coach planned to have the milestone puck mounted.

“Obviously, the fans in Minnesota don’t care about the playoff race.” Boston Bruin GM Harry Sinden, after 9,591 people showed up at the Met Center to watch Montreal and Minnesota play a 2-2 tie March 14.

Joe Sakic took it right down to the wire for a photo finish that not even the Western League stewards could decide. The Swift Current centre scored four goals in his team’s last regular-season game March 19 to tie Moose Jaw’s Theoren Fleury with 160 points. The WHL has no formal tie-breaking procedure and declared Sakic and Fleury co-champions. It’s the first time in WHL history two players have tied for the scoring championship.

Originally drafted by the Sabres in 1980, Randy Cunneyworth explains his failure to stick in Buffalo rather succinctly. “Square pegs don’t fit into round holes.”

“It’s funny,” said Stephane Richer. “In the past few games it seems that everything I shoot is going in or any time I make a pass to my linemate he scores.” Richer scored on four of 10 shots in a 7-6 overtime win at Los Angeles March 5. Among the goals was the game-winner, making it 44 goals in 65 for number 44 as he helped Montreal to a league-high eight consecutive victories.

Springfield Indians (AHL) center Bruce Boudreau had his 20-game point streak snapped by Maine in a 4-2 loss Feb. 28.

Leafs suffer double-digit embarrassment – a humiliating 10-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Fleury Unplugged

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.

Punch-Up In Piestany

I went to work one day in Ottawa, back in 1987, and a fellow there asked me if I had seen the World Junior game the night before. I hadn’t for some reason, and he went on to explain that I had just missed the most incredible fight he had ever seen. Soon after, I rounded up a video of what happened that winter night in Piestany, Czechoslovakia between the Canadian juniors and the Russians, and I saw what he meant.

Thanks to Beatnik for sending this over. Theoren Fleury and the boys exchanging knuckle sandwiches with the Soviets, with the referee and linesmen escaping off the ice and getting the lights turned off.

A couple of things you might be interested in before you see this fight to end all fights. Some felt the Soviets started it in the hopes that the Canadians would be kicked out and lose any chance of getting a medal.  Some also felt it was because of Theoren Fleury, who had earlier scored a goal and made machine gun motions at the Soviet bench.

This was before perestroika, don’t forget, the Cold War was still going strong, and the intense rivalry between these two nations was more than smouldering. It was more like a four alarm blaze.

Among the players involved were Fleury, Brendan Shanahan, and ex-Hab Mike Keane, while the Russians had Alexander Mogilny, Vlad Konstantinov and Sergei Fedorov in their lineup.

Incredibly, Pierre Turgeon, who would one day captain the Montreal Canadiens, sat on the bench during the entire fight and wouldn’t come out to help his teammates. Turgeon’s reputation as a weak-spined chicken began that night and lasted throughout his entire NHL career.

Here it is. If you’ve never seen this before, be prepared to see how the Canadians and Soviets loved each other back then. Both teams were disqualified and there would be no medal for Canada, although later on, Harold Ballard of the Leafs had special medals made up for the Canadian boys.

And here’s Don Cherry, who famously defended the Canadians to Brian Williams, who kept repeating that it was a black mark and a disgrace. Brendan Shanahan told Cherry later on that “you should’ve seen what we were doing when the lights were out.”

 

One Play Sucked The Life Out Of Montreal

It was their best 39 minutes and 53 seconds of the year. For what it’s worth.

The beginning of the end came when Montreal allowed a devastating, frustrating, mind-boggling shorthanded goal with seven seconds left in the second period with the Habs leading 2-1 at the time and playing their finest game of the year. Seven seconds. Seven lousy, stinking seconds.

I hate shorthanded goals against the Habs more than anything else in hockey. I hate shorthanded goals that tie games. I hate them when things are going so well up until then. And I hate them when there’s just seconds left. 

That goal, by Mike Knuble, loaded the gun. And the trigger was pulled in the third.

A 6-3 disaster on home ice, and the end is near.

Should we blame Roman Hamrlik for allowing the Capitals to pull away with a two-man rush with time winding down when the Habs were dominating and on the power play? I’m just going to come out and say yes. That goal killed them, sucked the soul out of them, and gave Washington extra juices that were almost as good as steroids.

With only seconds left until the end of the period, conservatism is the key word.

Theoren Fleury, on TSN’s Off The Record a few months ago, was asked how he would describe Roman Hamrlik. “A gutless puke,” replied Fleury, as obviously something had happened in the past which I have no idea of because I haven’t read Fleury’s book. And although “gutless” doesn’t describe Hamrlik tonight, maybe “game-killing decision on the ice” might. 

For more than 50 years I’ve agonized and suffered deeply when the Canadiens lose a big playoff game. Even when they were the class of the league I could never stomach it. It ruins my day, and the next. And tonight, especially with the shorthanded goal, this loss ranks right up with any of them.

A One-Sided Affair And A Night To Build On. Habs Trounce Enemy

There’ll be no harsh words tonight. No getting on anyone, no wondering why some players aren’t doing this and that. Heck, I’m not even going to bring up how Jaroslav Halak blew his shutout by giving the puck away on a power play.

Because this is a night to savour. A delicious, one-sided, crowd-pleasing 5-1 blowout over the New York Islanders to give us all hope that slowly but surely, the team’s coming around and isn’t the sad sack bunch we saw just recently on a west coast swing that we’re all trying desperately to forget.

Seeing five goals was like seeing Sophia Loren topless in one of her old movies – rare but exhilarating. Glen Metropolit was a force with two assists. Two guys who took longer to score than me in high school – Max Pacioretty and Maxim Lapierre, finally hit home runs. And Marc-Andre Bergeron has a shot that bends steel. This is a guy who’s a keeper, and when Andre Markov gets back, these two will help show all the naysayers out there that this is a team to be reckoned with.

5-1. Is it possible?

Random Notes:

Marc-Andre Bergeron’s shot reminds me of mine when I played for the Orillia Byers Bulldozers midgets. The only difference is, his is fast, hard, dangerous, and leaves the ice.

Pierre McGuire kept talking to Carey Price on the bench during the game and I’ll bet Price wished Pierre would just shut the hell up. But like I said, I’m not criticising anyone tonight.

I’d also like to take the time to defend Hal Gill a little, who often has the crowd and broadcasters on him because he’s a tad slow. But if you were Gill’s size, which is just slightly shorter than the Empire State Building, would you be a fast skater? Gill gets it done in other ways. Like his long reach, and taking out bowling pins in front of the net. I think we should give Hal a break because on this night especially, it’s all about peace and love.

I completely dislike the “Smurfs” nickname Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Scott Gomez have been tagged with. Stop it people. Did you or do you call Henri Richard, Theoren Fleury, Martin St. Louis, and many other superstars “smurfs?” Just because an announcer thought this up at some point, does it mean you have to embrace it?

Rangers in town Saturday. Keep it going, boys. Put some red blood on those blueshirts.

Here’s To Fleury And All Small Players

theo1Theo Fleury, all 5’6″ of him, which is an inch shorter than both Brian Gionta and Henri Richard, is hoping to make a comeback with the team where he found his greatest glory, the Calgary Flames. He’s been sober for four years now and feels he’s ready to go. And we’ll see soon enough if he’s ready to go or not. 

What I remember most about Theoren Fleury, when I lived in Calgary, was this: the fans loved him, he had a gorgeous wife, and he played like he was six foot two. He fought for the puck in corners with guys he only came up to their shoulder pads with; he dropped the gloves with bigger guys, he checked hard and was a strong little bugger. He was a bonafide star on some excellent, star-laden Calgary Flames teams.

This is a guy who’s a shining example of a small guy doing just fine, thank you very much, and why so-called hockey experts who say Montreal has small forwards and that’s a bad thing  are just blowing smoke. Small guys can play in the NHL, as long as they play like big guys. And as long as most of them are forwards and not defencemen.

Montreal isn’t even that small. Sure, new guys like 5’7″ Gionta and Mike Cammalleri at 5’9″  have brought the average down a little, but they’re also gritty players who carry on the tradition of good, small guys like Henri Richard, who no one messed with, Dave Keon, and of course, Fleury.

Just buy one of those sponge bricks and when you hear broadcasters and reporters ramble on about Montreal being too small, throw the brick at your screen. They’re full of it. Or, if you’re sitting behind them at the rink, throw a real brick.

Theo Fleury’s chances are only slim that he’ll find a spot on the Flames roster, but I’m pulling for him. He’s been through a lot and wants to get back. He’s a tough guy who beat the odds in real life, just like he did on the ice. And good for the Flames for at least giving him a shot.

To Patrice And The Boys, Have I Got A Job For You!

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To Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, Alex Tanguay, Patrice Brisebois, and Mathieu Dandenault:

The Powell River Regals, a respected and long-serving senior men’s hockey team that has won not one but three Allan Cups in the last 12 years, is going through a re-building stage. Many of the veterans just can’t keep up any more. Many of the younger whiz kids have decided to concentrate more on jobs and family than on hockey. And some players coming up from minor hockey simply aren’t showing the necessary skills to help the club take on the Bentley Generals and Brantford Blasts of the world.

The Regals are therefore looking for some hired guns and feel the five of you would put the team over the top and once again bring home the Allan Cup to the promised land, Powell River.

And you’d like it here. Unfortunately, the club is unable to provide you with a job at the paper mill as they did decades ago, because there just aren’t many jobs left there. But you could make a tidy sum picking mushrooms or working part-time on a fish farm. And anyway, you already have enough money.

Theoren Fleury suited up for the Bentley Generals a while back, so if senior hockey’s good enough for him, it should be good enough for you. And I’ve been to Bentley and you don’t want to go there.

Here’s how we’ll handle this. Just buy a ticket to Vancouver, and then just buy another ticket on Pacific Coastal for $150, fly north for 25 minutes, and I’ll pick you up at our little airport up Duncan Street. One of you can sleep on my couch, and I’m sure some of the Regals have comfortable couches for the rest of you. Real estate is fair here and you can get a house if you want, with an ocean view even. Your kids will love it.

If you’re feeling a little unwanted right now, don’t. The Powell River Regals want you.

You Want A Short Story? Here’s A Beauty

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These are Russian lapel pins. Russians love their pins, and there’s millions of them floating around. This little display I have at home are hockey and 1980 Olympics pins, and of course, there’s a story here.

In 1991, I told my friends, a Russian couple living in Leningrad, which shortly after became St. Petersburg, to start sending me pins and I’ll sell them (three for five bucks) and raise enough money to bring them to Canada to see some hockey. I raised $4000, they came, and we saw two games in Calgary, one in Edmonton, and were invited to a closed practice in Calgary where this husband and wife met all the players, got their picture taken with Theoren Fleury, and at the practice, GM Doug Risebrough came up to our seats to say hello.

Now this is where I hope you keep reading. Just a week before this couple had even landed in Canada, after all the pin selling, after all the preparation, my first wife informed me she wanted a divorce. So the whole month the Russian couple were with us, my wife and I pretended all was well so we wouldn’t ruin their holiday. But I was a hurtin puppy, and when everyone went to bed, I stayed up and drank myself into oblivion.

Now, I hope you’re still reading, because the story takes another twist. Not long after the couple went back to Russia, a letter came saying that they were also getting a divorce.

Ten years later, I married this Russian woman.