When I was asked to discuss the new Theo Fleury book Playing With Fire, which has as much swearing, drug use, and vulgarity as the movie "Crank It," took me awhile to take it seriously.
I grew up watching Fleury and would easily regard him as a great player, and a textbook definition of a gritty enforcer forward.
I took special note when Fleury was on the ice, I had found a similar type of style on the ice to his own, but then his off-ice antics came out.
The NHL during my years of youth were similar to a good daytime soap opera. Ed Belfour wanted people to know "who the f*ck he was" while getting belligerent after having too much to drink at a hotel bar in Dallas.
Marty Brodeur also had off-ice drama, and Theo was in and out of rehab and treatment clinics every week it seemed.
My father and I both questioned how a man with it always together on the ice could unravel off of it. His new book makes it clear of his own true turmoil from his youth.
Let me first say Theo is a victim, not only of abuse by a coaching figure, but also of his own mind. His lessons learned, spelled out in his book, make many points young hockey players should learn, even if it may leave them with nightmares.
My only negative opinion is that I feel as though his book, and Theo, abuse his youth as an excuse for the poor choices he made as an adult. He had money, and resources to get truly clean from drugs and weed out the emotional causes of his drug use, but he didn't.
While some will point out his victimization, I refuse to allow that to be an excuse for his behavior. Additionally, many of his latest claims to fame, including a comeback on the ice, and the books release seem to coincide with a money-making strategy.
Alas, I digress, because regardless of the moron and loser I think Fleury is for his attempt to make excuses for his behavior, there are valuable lessons to be learned. Below are the top five...
5. Parents should be more involved with their kids sports activities
I can't say that Theo's parents are a reason for his abuse. Most likely they are not, but I have seen plenty of parents who view hockey as a baby sitter without much regard for the child's welfare.
Many coaches do have the utmost best intentions, but there are still those who do not.
4. The value of seeking justice, no matter the cost
Unfortunately for Theo, justice will never be truly served for the crime against him. Additionally, the silence by Theo and countless others for as long as it was likely led to more victims.
Theo spent much of his adult life a victim trapped within his own mind, and has the strength now (regardless of possible hidden intentions) to tell his story so that other victim may feel the strength.
Hopefully, children and adults alike will see his strength and take guidance from it to seek justice when we have been wronged, no matter how painful it is.
3.The power of hockey - Theo lost basically everything because of his love of hockey. He lost his youth, innocence and later on his sobriety because of his abuse.
The one thing that kept him together was the sport he played and loved. That's a powerful message regardless of a player's background.
2. The power of the human spirit
No matter what life has thrown at Theo, he never fully gave up on himself. He came dangerously close and didn't.
I ask if Theo can get through the things he has, it certainly makes studying for finals or that job interview seem a lot less terrible, huh?
1. The power of faith
"The redemption part is something I never thought I'd achieve," Fluery said in a Toronto Star article. "You look at where I was in Santa Fe about six years ago, to where I am today, how does that happen? That's where you know there's a God."
Fluery cleaned up his life for his wife and young son, that's a powerful strength that after all the raw pain and terrible things Fluery has endured he is able to enjoy his life now, through his faith and his sobriety.
While I have reservations about some aspects regarding the book, I do plan to read it. There is nothing more powerful than the human spirit, and regardless of his intentions, previous mistakes, or even excuses for said mistakes as long as they went on he is now clean, sober, and a happy guy. Could he have been earlier with the programs the NHL sets up? Yes.
Could he have come to grips with his pain earlier and saved himself a lot more pain? Yes. But regardless, Theo Fleury now has a message to tell, and one worth listening to, regardless of your opinion on him.
Now Bleacher Report, what's your take?
Ken Armer is a Community Leader for the NHL and the Dallas Stars for Bleacher Report. He also covers the Anaheim Ducks for SoCalSportsHub.com and covers the Texas and Dallas Stars for Hockey54.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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