In an article yesterday, titled Remembering a Rivalry. we looked back at the rich history between the Flames and Kings. Each team has caused the other a fair share of pain at different points, including Calgary bouncing Los Angeles from Wayne Gretzky’s first playoff run with his new team, to the Kings eliminating the Flames in the first round the year after they won their only Stanley Cup in franchise history.
As much as Gretzky is part of any narrative surrounding the Kings – and the Flames’ biggest rival, the Oilers – Theo Fleury is a central character to the history of the Flames. He’s one of the toughest guys to ever play in the NHL, yet he stood only 5-foot-6.
With 455 goals and more than a point-per-game in his 1,084 games played, there’s no denying his offensive abilities. However, Fleury will forever be remembered as the ultimate pest. Nobody before or after could get under the skin of opposing coaches, players and fans the way Fleury could. He was a master at it.
And along the way he played 70 games against the Kings – more than any other opponent in his career. So, to say he knew the Kings well would be an understatement.
“I always loved going to the Forum and playing,” Fleury told MayorsManor. “My first experience there was when Wayne Gretzky got traded to LA. So, it was more than just a game. It was an event. There were lots of celebrities there, and it was pretty cool to play there. Having all the Hollywood people there, it was pretty cool.”
Since retirement, Fleury has dabbled in all sorts of things. Many know of Playing With Fire, the best selling book he penned about his life experiences, but one of the first things he got involved with after hanging up the skates was music.
“I grew up in a very musical family,” said the Western Canadian native. “We are of Metis descent. If you know anything about Metis people, we are very musical people. My grandfather was a fiddle player, my dad and my uncles played the guitar. Most Sundays were spent on my uncle’s farm just playing music and dancing; you know having fun. It was a great experience, and when I retired from hockey and shortly after my book came out, I had a dear friend that was in the music business and I gave him a call and asked if he’d be interested in writing a song with me.”
That one song led to more songs and Fleury even showed off his musical chops a few years ago on Battle of the Blades, a popular TV show in Canada. He also has a full length cd due out later this year.
Still, Fleury has never strayed too far from his love of sports. Besides playing hockey, he was also part of a group that owned the Calgary Hitmen, a junior team in the WHL.
“When I was playing in Calgary, I thought it would be kind of cool to bring the team back to (the area) because I was playing there. For the three years that we did it was fun, and it was very enjoyable. But, at the end of the day, it got to be much for a lot of us and the Flames came to us and made an excellent offer, and we accepted it. I’m glad the team has been there for as long as it has. And getting two Memorial Cups since they’ve been in Calgary, it’s been a huge success. It was kind of neat to think that I was partly responsible for that.”
The Kings currently have two prospects who played for the Hitmen, goaltender Martin Jones and forward Brandon Kozun – who is often compared to Fleury.
“Brandon Kozun is probably cut out of the same cloth as me,” Fleury said. “Not a big guy, but he has lots of skill and lots of talent, and he’s very feisty.”
Retirement also allowed Fleury the chance to live out one of his many dreams, playing professional baseball – even if it was only for a few games.
“I’ve always been a huge baseball fan,” he shared. “At one point, I was probably a better baseball player than a hockey player. But there wasn’t a whole lot of 5-foot-6 catchers coming out of Canada at that time. So, I just felt that hockey was something that was a more realistic dream for me as opposed to trying to play baseball. I love the game and that week I spent with the Calgary Vipers, taking batting practice, ground balls and whatnot was probably one of the funnest experiences I’ve had. And getting the opportunity to play a couple games and finish my professional baseball career with a .333 average was great.”
On a more serious note, two of Fleury’s most meaningful athletic accomplishments would be the Stanley Cup he won in 1989 and his gold medal at the 2002 Olympics. But, don’t expect to see him sporting the rings around town.
“I only break it out for big events,” he said. “I’m too afraid of losing them. I think more importantly people are so fascinated with rings and cups and trophies and all that stuff. For me, it’s more what I have inside of my head. The memories I have of the process of winning that is something nobody else has except for the guys involved in the situation. So those are nice to have, they’re nice to wear, but I think at the end of the day it’s all about where we’ve been and the process it takes to be in winning situations.”
Through all the highs and lows of his crazy tumultuous life, Theo Fleury remains one thing - a winner.
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Some of the above content was taken from previous MayorsManor articles and/or interviews.