Takin' a T/O with BT: Why Theoren Fleury Should Get Another NHL Shot
Everyone goes through phases.
There was big hair and bullet belts in the eighties; Aqua, the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync in the nineties and today? It's whatever the kids are in to now.
Whatever that is I'll never know and probably never understand it.
But as we grow older, we keep going through these phases, except they grow more serious.
What was once popular music, fashion trends and dietary choices become eternal worries, care-free streaks and cautious ideals. As we grow older we change, and so do those "phases".
Strangely enough, as individualistic as we think we are, we're not. Most people go through the same phases, the same worries and the same contemplations and just don't know it.
It simply takes a world-wide fan base and uncountable members of the media to tell you that simple fact.
That's what professional athletes are going through: This whole "unretiring" phase.
Michael Jordon did it, Mario Lemieux did it and Roger Clemens did it. Then suddenly, Brett Favre took over the crown, drawing people in to his game of "will he or won't he?" in an unprecedented six (or however long it actually was) year streak.
Derek Mason retired for all of a month (but to be fair he predicted he wouldn't stay retired), Deion Sanders may still want to come out of retirement and Claude Lemieux became the latest NHL'er to decide that he "wasn't through with the game" and latched on with the San Jose Sharks.
Or tried to at least.
If you've been paying any attention at all to some of the developing story lines around the NHL, then you know that Theoren Fleury has decided that he wants to make a comeback after six years away from the game at it's highest level.
Six years. And we thought Claude Lemieux's bid seemed out there.
It's well known the unceremonious circumstances that Fleury left the NHL on. He was using substance abuse as a crutch so that he could "deal with life" and the NHL suspended him after he violated the Substance Abuse Policy and the Aftercare Program put forth by the league after numerous run-ins and warnings.
That was in 2002/03.
Since then, Fleury has tried to help Horse Lake win an Allan Cup and taken his game to the Belfast Giants of the British National League (Also known as the British Elite Ice Hockey League).
Sidenote: Fleury played for the Giants way back in 2005/06 and, despite it not being the top competition, he lapped the field points-wise registering 74 points (22 goals, 52 assists) in just 34 games. Evan Chevrie was the player closest to him in the scoring race that wasn't on his team, notching 52 points for the Coventry Blaze and that took him 43 games.
Imagine what Crosby could do to that league.
Aside from those instances however, Fleury has been out of the game since we last saw him with the Chicago Blackhawks. Then he was a player struggling to stay in the game and on life's tracks, not even allowed to finish out a season.
Now, he's a 41-year old success story who's been sober for four years, involved in the construction business running a cement company and hasn't played the game at a meaningful statistical level since 2005/06.
So what gives? Why should we care about Theoren Fleury and why should we feel he even deserves another chance?
The answer is simple and it comes straight from the pint-sized pest's mouth.
After working out for the past seven months, preparing himself mentally and physically for the toll he'd take if someone were to take an interest in him and bothering to put feelers out to the NHL with regards to his reinstatement, Fleury has one reason.
He doesn't want to retire as a suspended player.
You may or may not feel the same way, but looking at it, it seems to be out of respect. Fleury respects and loves the game too much to leave it on such a sour note, and wants to make right what once went so wrong.
Maybe I'm wrong.
Maybe, like so many others, he's wondering in his own mind if he still has it. You could say it's for a pay-day, but is he really going to be making that much if someone decides to give him a shot? Some may even claim under their breath it's a last-ditch attempt to clamor into the spotlight one more time.
You know, it could be all of those things. But why believe that? For the first time in a long time, a player has a legitimate reason to come back to the highest level of professional sport.
Not because "Hey, retiring was a mistake" or "I'm sure I can still do it", or "The New York Yankees are going to give me a Hummer if I decide to play for them again", but because one of the hardest workers, fiercest competitors and tireless contributors of our generation wants to right a wrong.
In a world where we spout off about second chances and opportunities but take it from those who truly deserve one, a player who wants to clear his name and show people that "Yes, you can recover" truly needs and deserves one.
For that, I'm in Theo Fleury's corner.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile, and you can also email him at email@example.com. You can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.
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