Of all the players in the NHL, arguably no one has had a harder road than Theoren Fleury. He is a fascinating story of overcoming adversity, bumps in the road and so much more. If you are aware of all he’s been through, he get ready to be amazed.
Growing up, Theoren Fleury was always one of the smallest children in his class and without proper supervision during his home life due to his father being an alcoholic, he soon began to develop a negative and aggressive attitude. Soon after, Fleury turned to hockey as an outlet and he began to play as often as he could.
At 14, Fleury met a WHL scout by the name of Graham James that wanted to recruit him to play in the WHL once he was old enough and once he turned 16, he did just that as he joined the Moose Jaw Warriors. While Fleury was a talented scorer, he learned early on that he has to compensate for his small stature and to do this, he began to play a feisty and physical game.
He continuously improved during his 4 years in the WHL and was one of the league’s best scorers. But despite this, many scouts and other officials didn’t believe he would make it in the NHL due to his size. However, he was drafted in the 8th round of the 1987 NHL Draft and it was official, Fleury was an NHL player.
While his career got off to a rocky start coming in very overweight to his first training camp, he continued to work hard and would soon become an offensive talent for the Calgary Flames and went on to be successful for a number of other teams. The guy played in over 1000 games and scored over 1000 point. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even supposed to get to the league. So you’re probably asking yourself, “where is this tragic tale”? And don’t worry, it’s coming.
Throughout his NHL career and even after retirement, Fleury struggled mightily with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. While this is awful and horrendous, the real tragedy bomb was dropped when he released his autobiography “Playing With Fire” in 2009. In this book, Fleury claimed he was sexually abused and assaulted by Graham James (the initial scout that showed interest in him back in his early teens) over a period of two days. Fleury believes it was this abuse that led him to become an angry addict and alcoholic and this almost drove him to suicide in 2004. This news sent shockwaves through the NHL and many couldn’t believe he had kept something like this for so long.
Fleury had hoped that him speaking out would lead other sexual assault victims to come forward, do the same and get the help they needed. It did, as numerous victims contacted him and said the book motivated them to seek help and come forward. He then dedicated some of his time and money to organizations helping with sexual assault victims.