CALGARY – Calgary is where Theoren Fleury started his remarkable NHL career. It may also be where he resurrects it.
In an interview with radio station The Fan 960 on Friday, the 41-year-old former all-star said an NHL team had invited him to training camp and he would arrive on Saturday. While Fleury didn’t identify the team, several media reports said it was the Calgary Flames.
“I’ve basically been doing everything I can to prepare myself for tomorrow,” Fleury told the radio station. “I think the biggest asset I have to bring to an organization is the experience that I have. That’s what they’re getting when they get me tomorrow.”
The Flames would not confirm Friday night if Fleury, who lives in Calgary and played 11 seasons there, was offered a tryout.
Fleury’s last season was with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2002-03 when he was suspended indefinitely then for violating the NHL’s substance abuse policy.
Fleury says he’s sober now. The Oxbow, Sask., native asked for reinstatement and it was granted by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association late Thursday night.
“I know Theo pretty well,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in Phoenix. “We had spent some time together when things in his life were a little less settled. Seeing him last night, he looked terrific, he sounded terrific, he seems to be in a good place, he’s been sober for a number of years.
“We wish him well. I hope he can fulfil his dream and come back.”
The diminutive forward made up for his five-foot-six frame during a remarkable NHL career. He scored 455 goals and added 633 assists in over 1,000 career games with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and Chicago between 1988 and 2003. He won a Stanley Cup in his rookie season with Calgary and was a member of the Canadian team that won an Olympic gold medal.
Fleury also battled alcoholism through his career.
“At heart I’m a hockey player first and foremost,” Fleury said after one of his recent practices. “Obviously I didn’t go out the way I wanted to.
“I knew something was wrong about 15 years ago. I just didn’t have the tools to be able to deal with life. I started picking up really good tools to get to a point four years ago where I knew I could stop and continue and maintain my recovery and sobriety.”
He will continue to participate in the after-care phase of the league’s substance abuse program.
A return to the NHL after a six-year absence is a tall order. Defenceman Chris Chelios may have played in the NHL at 47 last season, but he’d never left it.
Forward Claude Lemieux, 43, played 18 games with the San Jose Sharks last season after a five-year absence. He had one assist and retired again.
Fleury had 12 goals and 21 assists in 54 games with the Blackhawks in 2002-03. He’s played in Europe and in North American senior leagues since then.
He’s operated a cement company in Calgary in recent years.