A most unexpected return…

September 16, 2009

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Andy Charles

A most unexpected return…

While most of the hockey world was reading about Dany Heatley’s monster move to the San Jose Sharks last week, it became clear that a former NHL favorite was about to try his luck at an unlikely comeback.

No, it’s not Jeremy Roenick a month after his retirement, and it’s not Claude Lemieux at the age of about 80, but the man most opponents loved to hate and his fans loved to love, Theo Fleury.

Fleury is back at training camp with the Calgary Flames, apparently determined to have at least one more season back in the NHL to end his career on his own terms, not in the way it had previously looked like ending back in 2003 before the work stoppage.

His path back to the league was cleared last week when he was granted reinstatement after a meeting with Commissioner Gary Bettman, as he was still under indefinite suspension over substance abuse issues that dogged the years towards what had been assumed to be the end of his career.

Fleury’s last organized professional hockey came in Britain’s Elite League with the Belfast Giants, and as for much of his career he was a success, being named Player of the Year by the British Ice Hockey Writers’ Association. He piled up an amazing 74 points in only 34 games and unsurprising racked up 270 penalty minutes before leaving after complaining about the standard of refereeing.

But Calgary is where Fleury calls his hockey home, after 11 seasons with the Flames which included a Stanley Cup in his first season and two other campaigns where he scored more than 100 points and eight seasons with over 100 minutes in the penalty box.

He continued to score and scrap during spells with Colorado, the Rangers and in Chicago but NHL betting knew that there was no chance of him going anywhere other than Calgary for his hoped-for return to the game.

"Everyone tells me the game is better. I want to know for a fact that it is," Fleury said at a press conference to announce his return to camp. “Hopefully I still belong."

“I never thought in my wildest dreams four years ago I'd be standing here talking to you about putting on the skates again. It’s a miracle.”

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