Theo Fleury has hoisted the Stanley Cup, worn Olympic gold around his neck and scored more than 1,000 points in the National Hockey League.
As much as all those accomplishments mean to him, Fleury is just as proud of his current pursuit, travelling the country to share his experiences and help others overcome the challenges in their lives.
"I thought hockey was fun and rewarding and exciting, but this is every bit, it’s equal for sure," Fleury said recently from his home in Calgary.
Raised in Russell, Fleury will return to Westman later this month for a pair of dinner and speaking engagements on March 24 at the Victoria Inn in Brandon and the following night at the El Prado Club in Shilo.
He said he’s excited to be coming back to the area where he grew up, bringing his "Don’t Quit Before the Miracle" message. It’s based largely on the experiences he shared in his best-selling autobiography, "Playing with Fire," which detailed his rise to hockey stardom, the sexual abuse he endured from former junior coach Graham James and the personal problems that ensued.
Fleury said it’s a message anyone can benefit from.
"I think everybody has miracles, but the miracles don’t involve fireworks and lightning bolts and all that stuff," he said. "It’s very simple stuff that gets you to that point where you no longer have to live with the pain, you no longer have to live in silence.
"It’s amazing, when people find their voice it is incredible, the movement they make in their lives."
While his NHL career is over, Fleury has never strayed far away from the sport of hockey. Two seasons after his final NHL game, he ventured to Northern Ireland to play professionally in Belfast, and he took two runs at the Allan Cup Canadian senior championship, once with Alberta’s Horse Lake Thunder and once with his brother Ted on the Steinbach North Stars. He attempted an NHL comeback with the Calgary Flames in 2009, scoring four points in four pre-season games, and even tried his hand at figure skating, teaming up with Olympic pairs champion Jamie Sale in the "Battle of the Blades" reality show.
"Obviously, everything I have in life I owe to the game of hockey," he said. "And obviously the success that I had on ice has transferred really well over into this new part of my life and allows for me to have a voice and allows for people to listen and to figure out where they are in their own minds."
His successes on the ice are impressive for a player once considered too small to play in the NHL.
A star in the Western Hockey League with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Fleury helped Canada win the 1988 world junior title. He went on to produce 455 goals and 1,088 points in 1,084 career NHL games, winning the Stanley Cup as a rookie with the Flames in 1989.
He also played in the Olympics twice, winning gold in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, something that gave him extra appreciation when Canada accomplished the feat again last month in Sochi.
"It was really enjoyable to watch how well they played under the extreme pressure," said Fleury, who added he watched as much of the tournament as his travel schedule allowed.
"I don’t think a lot of people gave them much of a chance, but they really showed why we believe in Canada that we can ice the 23 best players and we can always dress the best team in whatever international competition that we’re playing in."
Tickets for Fleury’s speeches, which are free for members of the military, are available from the Shilo Military Family Resource Centre at 204-765-3000, ext. 3352. Tickets for the Brandon event can also be purchased at Medichair and Branstone Financial Strategies.