Theoren Fleury is a retired professional hockey player. In family court, he relied on statements that he had lost his hockey fortune to bad investments to reduce his child support.
But in the waning months of 2009, the hockey world was shocked to read Fleury's biography not only detailing a life of sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a coach, but of his life of crime; drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
As of January 8, 2010, Calgary media are making polite inquiries as to whether or not he has filed formal charges against his former coach. Fleury is evasive.
Ironically, his Jerry Springer, tell-it-all biography, Playing With Fire serves as a confession of horrible, recent crimes, none of which slips from his shoulders because he was abused sexually as a young boy, though Fleury would want you to assume that it does.
And yet, Canada's media gives Fleury royal treatment.
After gently interviewing Fleury for an hour, CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos wrapped up his television show gushing about the true-crime confession book and a recommendation that ought to send a chill down the spine of any hockey parent:
"... a helluva read! A must-read! Especially if you have a kid in hockey. Theoren Fleury. Good to see you man!"
TSN's Michael Landsberg had Fleury as a guest and practically wet his pants calling the book: "What a great story"
With the passage of time, some offences lose their sting especially where covered by a period of model behaviour, and a sports celebrity.
However, Fleury's criminal tell-all is of recent vintage.
In January of 2003, Fleury writes that he woke up with a black eye and could not remember where he had got it. Turns out the night before, he had drank so much alcohol:
"I was so pissed that ... I punched the manager in the face...."
In April, 2003, he attended the Larry Flynt Penthouse strip joint in St. Louis and:
"... I did a whole bunch of blow."
Later, in 2003, he moved in with his girlfriend' "Steph". In his book, he names her daughter, 6-year old Aleca. For the sake of selling a few books, he details one of his tantrums and immortalizes the little girl's nightmare:
"I ripped the curtains down, kicked every door off the hinges, pulled plates and bowls and shit off the counters and threw them on the tile floor.... Steph though I was going to kill her, so she ran and locked herself in Aleca's room. I came after her and kicked the door down. Aleca was there....
"Steph had her cell phone and tried to call 911, but I grabbed it and broke it in half. She ran to the kitchen and picked up the phone and a big butcher knife and called the cops. I smashed the toaster and blender and whatever else was on the counter. Then I tore the phone off the wall.... When I heard the sirens .... I jumped into my (BMV vehicle) and drove straight into the desert."
In Playing With Fire, Fleury writes that he returned to Calgary in 2003 because his children, all of whom he names, Josh, Beaux and Tatym "needed me".
He writes of loading up his vehicle and driving first to Albuquerque "because that is where my dealer was", and then off to Calgary.
In his car, he hid cocaine:
"An 8-ball is an eight of an ounce of cocaine - in metric, 3.5 grams.... I bought five 8-balls and stuffed them all around the engine. I also had a little vial in my front pocket....
"I did a lot of blow in the car on the way (to Calgary). By the time I got to the border, I was just fuckin' tweaking and shitting my pants."
Evidently thrilled with his life of a felon continues with the story that the Canada Border Agency guard recognized him and was so enamored with servicing an ex-NHLer that he waved him through.
As for his children needing him, he says he took his son Josh in with him in Calgary but:
"When I came back to Calgary, I partied hard. Over the next three years I did about fifteen pounds of coke. That's a $2,000 a week habit...."
"Josh saw it all. It was a bad scene."
Again, sells a few books but at what cost to Josh Fleury's privacy?
After a losing effort at the 2005 Allan Cup ice hockey championships, Theo Fleury writes that he "got into the Crown Royal". When alone with his fiancée "Jenn", he had a fit of rage and she:
"... tried to leave but I wouldn't let her, so she locked herself in the bathroom crying...."
Fleury states that he has been clean and sober since September 18, 2005. His math seems off since in one of his starting in July of 2003, he states that over three years, he did "fifteen pounds of coke...."
That would take us to July 2006, two and a half years ago.
But if true, it forms the exception to the rule that the best indicator of the future is the past.
In any event, it boggles the mind that an author would be allowed by an editor to proudly and sensationally disclose so many recent crimes or, in regards to events involving trauma to children, to immortalize that legacy for selfish, commercial reasons.
In interviews he gave in the aftermath of his book, Fleury suggests that:
"I'm a solid, functioning human being in society and I can help other people. (T)he next part of my life (is) helping people who have gone through what I've gone through. That's what keeps me sober every day, is helping people who are struggling."
George Stroumboulopoulos notwithstanding, the thought of that ought to make a discriminate observer nauseous.
There are but few Theoren Fleurys in professional hockey. Most are good, clean and honest and could not fathom taking an author's percentage of the net proceeds on a book such as Playing With Fire.
But the paper used to print this book may not yet be lost. It would find a home in the investigation offices of the Canada Border Agency, the RCMP and the FBI for the crude, defiant confession of alleged criminal activity that it is.
- Canadian Press, Fleury Announces Retirement From NHL, September 28, 2009
- Duhaime, Lloyd, The Law Travails of Theoren Fleury
- Fleury Avoids Suspension, January 23, 2003
- Fleury, Theo, Playing With Fire (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2009