A long time ago, our family was lucky enough to meet Theo Fleury before a Rangers game at a book signing. He was in the old book store inside MSG autographing his autobiography, Playing With Fire.
A very good read on the life and near death experiences of one of the game's most exciting players. While we knew about his personal demons with alcohol and drugs off the ice, nobody had any idea why Fleury struggled to overcome his issues.
The book details his struggles with anxiety and depression during his hockey career. It was caused by former Junior coach Graham James, who sexually abused him and Sheldon Kennedy as teenagers. It helps explain why Fleury turned to drinking as early as 14 to cope with the mental and physical abuse he suffered from.
Had the hockey community known back then, maybe Fleury would've been more at peace during a 15-year NHL career that saw him win a Stanley Cup with hometown club Calgary. He still wound up over a point-per-game and could arguably be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Whether he ever gets in depends on the politics of a committee that hasn't always been fair or objective.
I'm glad I got to meet Fleury along with my Dad and brother Justin. He couldn't have been nicer. If only I hadn't lost the book he signed. We read it multiple times. The stories are unbelievable. It is one of those books you can't put down. When you do, it really makes you think about some of the awful stuff that happened to him and Kennedy.
It's great that the courageous Fleury survived. He even contemplated suicide before seeking help to turn his life around. He is a true miracle. Someone I will always be a huge fan of. God bless Theo.