Theoren Fleury was a very talented professional hockey player, spectacular and everywhere, a fan favourite. He had it all until it all came crumbling down in a roller coaster of law.
Like every professional athlete, his life unfolded in a fisbowl. And with Theo Fleury, there have been many a Jerry Springer episode as he blew millions of dollars in NHL cash on, according to the promo material for his new book, alcohol, drugs, gambling and girls.
Born in 1968, Fleury was a junior hockey star before signing a contract with the Calgary Flames in 1988. For over a decade, these contracts oozed cash as he was paid millions of dollars by the Flames as he quickly became their marquee player, including a 51-goal season in 1991. Ten years later, he was still making $7-million a year.
But even while he was lighting up the NHL, the first signs of trouble began to surface. He was named by child sexual abuse victim, and former teammate, Sheldon Kennedy, as one of the perpetrator's protegés. On one road trip, Kennedy was abused by the team coach, Graham James while Fleury slept in the back seat, oblivious to it all. Later, Fleury would reveal that he, too, was one of James' victims.
And then, it all makes sense. There is no scale of child sexual abuse but infecting a young man during his period of sexual awakening comes with its own dark demons.
In August of 1995, Theoren Wallace Fleury married Veronica Lee Fleury, the same year he was named captain of the Flames. Fleury was still very much a force in professional hockey, netting 46 goals and 50 assists in the 1995-1996 season with the Calgary Flames.
The couple had two children, Beaux born in 1997, and Tatyn, in 1999.
But Theo Fleury was in trouble.
In 2001, he self-reported to the NHL substance abuse program, the problems at home so serious that Veronica admitted, in a November 2001 interview she gave to the New York Daily News, that the only reason she didn't throw Theo out was because she thought it'd kill him.
Fleury came back and in November 2001, he scored his 1000th NHL point while a member of the New York Rangers.
And yet, for Fleury, wealth and health did not mix.
The first public sign of his relapse came in March 2002 when Veronica and Theoren separated. She decided to stay in Alberta with the kids while Fleury plied his trade, finally, ending his NHL tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2002-2003.
Then, in 2002, he was suspended by the NHL for substance abuse but soon after his return, in 2003, he was again suspended - this time indefinitely - after a well-publicized incident. According to the Chicago Sun-Times:
"On January 19 (2002), he was beaten up by a bouncer at a Columbus, Ohio, strip club. (A) police report said he was intoxicated at the time...."
Two months later, Veronica filed for divorce.
In June of 2003, the Honourable Stanley Novak of the Supreme Court of Connecticut at Stamford divorced the spouses accepting the terms of their separation agreement.
Matrimonial property was divided, each party receiving about $4-million in assets.
Veronica received a lump sum spousal support payment of $350,000 and child support was set at $2,500 USD per child.
But by June 2003, Theoren Fleury was once again facing his demons.
He had succumbed to substance abuse and had been again suspended by the NHL.
According to his tax returns, Fleury's income in 2004 fell to a paltry $12,367; $10,398 in 2005.
But his lifestyle had not changed much as he was foolishly living off his capital. Three million in January of 2004 was down to $261,000 in January 2008, depleting, on average, $500,000 a year.
To his credit, he kept up with his child support payments of some $60,000 a year.
But at no time did he warn Veronica that at some future date, he might want that money back.
Nor did he keep her apprised of his financial circumstances.
When his attempts at gaining a living at professional hockey sputtered out, as age caught up with him, he tried his hand at a business venture, Fleury's Concrete. But it was ill-fated. He lent a company owned by his new wife and brother-in-law $850,000. He stands to lose his investment if Fleury's Concrete does not take off.
His various biographies on the Internet ring hollow: a clothing line, motivational speaker, investment representative ....
Meanwhile, Veronica had wisely held on to her $4-million and was living off the income only.
So, in 2007, Fleury hired a Calgary family law lawyer and applied to reduce his child support payments.
He sought to have his income averaged out over three years - excluding the money he blew from his investments - and wished to pay, only, $348 a month in child support!
In what may have been an ask-for-more-to-get-less legal tactic, Theo Fleury also asked the Court to set the new child support amount to the date he left the NHL, which would leave the mother of his children with a whopping debt.
The Alberta Court of Appeal, in Fleury v Fleury, 2009 ABCA 43, rejected his application to adjust child support retroactively to the date he ended his NHL career, and set his child support payments to just under $1,600.
With that behind him, and with a few years of clean and sober living behind him, Fleury reached again for the cash of an NHL contract. On September 12, 2009, he attended Day 1 of the Calgary Flames training camp on a wishbone attempt to break the lineup.
In the meantime, the 41-year old has penned an autobiography of his deboirs in which he, again, waxes on about his courage. It is aptly called Playing With Fire.
If the past is the best predictor of the future, and it is, Fleury will continue to make headlines. But for the sake of his children, let's hope it is of the "he shoots, he scores" variety and not of any interest to law and order reporters.
- Dellapina, J., The Family Man: After nearly losing all, Fleury back with his favorite team, New York Daily News, Nov. 22, 2001
- Fleury v Fleury 2009 ABCA 43
- Fleury v Fleury, Connecticut Supreme Court, Stamford Registry, FST-FA02-0188769-S
- Theoren Fleury Hockey Statistics
- Ziehm, L., "NHL Shelves Fleury For Six Months", Chicago Sun-Times, Apr. 12, 2003.