When the general public thinks of athletes – superstars in particular, the thought of game time heroics comes to mind. Points scored night in and night out with a winning attitude that brings championships and success, leaders on the ice and in the dressing room. Former NHL All-Star and Calgary Flames hero Theoren Fleury was all of that, and more than most people could imagine.
It hasn’t been too long since number 14 had made it public about the abuse he faced as a junior hockey player and the effects it would later have on his life. His 2009 autobiography “Playing with Fire” alleged that Graham James sexually abused him over a 2-year period, which later led Fleury into a long battle with substance abuse. Since the release of the book, Theo has made numerous TV appearances in efforts to shine a light on a dark reality that many children are facing.
“We want to keep this at the very forefront as much as we can because it’s the biggest epidemic we have in the planet,” explains Fleury. “It’s not your fault and there is hope. There are lots of people that have gotten through this. I’m a totally different person, I’m not chained, I’ve become a completely empowered person and I know there’s nothing I cant accomplish and nothing I cant do,” added the one-time Stanley Cup champion.
In the first week of sales, “Playing with Fire” became a top seller in Canada and several victims came into contact with Fleury as his book served as motivation for them to come out about their own experiences. Since the release of his book, Theo Fleury has participated in multiple public speaking events in hopes of allowing victims to gain the courage to face their demons and step up to help put an end to child abuse and sexual assault.
Throughout his 15-year career in the NHL Fleury posted more points than games played, was a 7-time All-Star and in his rookie season he captured a Stanley Cup with the 1989 Calgary Flames. He was a key member of the 2002 Canadian men’s gold medal team and held the Flames all-time scoring record for 10 years until Jarome Iginla passed it in 2009. Through all of this, Theo Fleury was hiding a secret that almost got the best of him in 2004, a scenario he wants victims of any age to never go through. By using his fame and status as an NHL elite to the advantage of assault victims across North America, Fleury has become a hero for more than what he accomplished on the ice.
After years of sexual assault and many years of hiding the events with substance abuse, Theo Fleury stands tall on top of the adversity he has faced within his personal life and his career in the NHL. What he is giving back to the community is a voice of victory as he has become a leader for anyone who has gone through or is going through the epidemic that is child abuse. A man who overcame his addictions with drugs and alcohol to be a light of hope for those stuck in that dark tunnel.
“How I got well is I wrote my entire life story on a piece of paper. I didn’t care what you thought about it, or what the guy down the street thought of it, I needed to get it off my chest and I did and you guys accepted it and I moved on,” describes Fleury of his road to recovery.
For most autobiographies athletes release, they give an insight into glorious years of their lives but the autobiography of Theo Fleury has opened the doors for victims to take a stand as Theo did later in 2010 when he made a criminal complaint against Graham James, encouraging others to do the same to fight back against all child abuse.