This year marked 12 years of eligibility for Theo Fleury to be recognized Hockey Hall of Fame, but once again the winger was overlooked.
According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, “It’s time to end the stigma. There has been a stigma attached to Theoren Fleury since his National Hockey League career unceremoniously ended in 2003 after being banned for violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. It’s a stigma that has seemingly followed his candidacy for the Hockey Hall of Fame.”
But, despite being outcasted by the NHL and the Hall of Fame, Fleury is one of the most prominent NHL players of all time.
Fleury had an interesting start in the league as many thought he was too small to play in the NHL and that he was not strong enough to survive. But, the 5-foot-6 winger he fought his way onto the Calgary Flames and won a Stanley Cup in his rookie season. He wasn’t just filling in a roster spot either, as he scored 11 points in 22 games during the playoff run.
After winning the Cup, he became a staple in the Flames’ lineup. His career took off and he eventually finished with 1,088 points in 1,084 games — over a point per game. He is one of just 15 players in NHL history to average more than one point per game in both the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs — the other 14 are all enshrined in the Hall, according to Seravalli.
Fleury ranks amongst the NHL’s greats placing 58th all-time in goals (425), 77th in assists (633), 64th in points (1,088) and ninth in shorthanded goals (35).
Fleury also contributed when it mattered as he recorded 79 points in 77 career playoff games. These stats alone are worthy of a Hall of Fame induction without even touching how he struggled with mental health and addictions his entire career.
“Think about all of those accomplishments. Then think about what Fleury battled through to achieve them. Fleury wrote in his book that at one point in the 2000-01 season, he was tied for the league lead in scoring while simultaneously sleeping on the streets of Manhattan to feed his alcohol and drug addiction,” said Seravalli. “At the time, Fleury’s battles with addiction were covered extensively, but no one knew with any concrete evidence what drove him there.”
According to writer Anthony Scultore, “In 1997, former Detroit Red Wings player Sheldon Kennedy told the press that he and others were sexually abused by their minor league coach, Graham James. Theo Fleury had played for James during that time, but it wasn’t until 2009 when he admitted in his autobiography – ‘Playing With Fire’ – that he was abused as well. This admission started to explain his downward spiral and the use of drugs and alcohol that derailed his career. Unfortunately, his fall was on full display during his time with the New York Rangers until he retired in 2003.”
Today, Fleury is a motivational speaker and works to help people battling addiction and mental health all over the world.
It’s about time the NHL moved past Fleury’s NHL departure and recognize him for the player he was.