When most people hear the name of Theo Fleury today, they immediately think of his autobiography Playing with Fire that was published in 2009 in which he admitted to having been sexually abused by his hockey coach Graham James. Despite an attempt to return to the NHL that same year, he announced his official retirement from hockey September 28, 2009. Unfortunately, his addictions and the subsequent disciplinary issues arising from his alcoholism and drug use overshadowed what was an amazing NHL career that ended in April 2003 when he was once again suspended by the NHL for violating their substance abuse program.
And yet the Oxbow, Saskatchewan native had such talent on the ice. In his 1,084 NHL games he scored 455 goals and added 633 assists to garner 1,088 points. Of course, he also had 1,840 penalty minutes to go along with those goals. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in 1987 in the eighth round (166th overall). He would go on to play 11 seasons with them before bouncing around from team to team over the next five seasons: one season with the Colorado Avalanche, three seasons with the New York Rangers, and the last with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Internationally, Fleury won a gold medal at the 1988 World Junior Championship with Team Canada; a silver medal with Team Canada in the 1991 World Championship; a gold medal in the 1991 Canada Cup and a gold medal in the 2002 Olympics. During the 2005-06 season he played with the Belfast Giants of what is now known as the Elite Ice Hockey League, the British ice hockey league, in which the team won the championship. That year Fleury was the top points scorer with 81 points and was named Player of the Year.On March 9, 1991, Fleury made NHL history setting a record that still stands 28 years later. It was during this road game against the St. Louis Blues that Fleury contributed a hat trick to the Calgary Flames 8-2 win—a hat trick of shorthanded goals.
“Fleury, who also had a hat trick in a 7-4 victory over the Blues on Feb. 17 in Calgary, ripped a slap shot over the right shoulder of Vincent Riendeau for the only goal of the first period at 5:52. At 24 seconds of the third period he fought off defenseman Scott Stevens and scored from close range. He completed his fourth hat trick of the season, getting his 44th goal when he stole the puck at the St. Louis blue line and scored unassisted at 17:25,” reported the Southern Illinoisan, a Carbondale newspaper, on March 10.
Fleury also got a helper on Doug Gilmour’s goal at 14:52 of the third which had put the Flames up 7-4. He rounded out the game by adding a 10-minute misconduct 27 seconds after scoring that third shorthanded goal.
“It was the sixth straight victory for the Flames, who are 12-1-2 in their last 15 games… There were several fights in the final minute, and four separate altercations took place with five seconds to go,” added the Southern Illinoisan.
In Fleury’s 79 games during the 1990-91 season, he scored 51 goals (which included seven shorthanded goals, and five hat tricks). He added 53 helpers for 104 points that season.
- Theo Fleury with Kirstie McLellan Day, Playing with Fire (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2009).
- NHL Records: Most Hat Tricks, Season
- NHL Records: Most Short Handed Goals, Game
- NHL: Theor Fleury, Stats
- Calgary Flames at St. Louis Blues, March 9th, 1991, Game Page
- Southern Illinoisan (Carbondale, Illinois), Sunday, March 10, 1991, p. 34.
- Elite Prospects: Theo Fleury