Fleury Will Be More Than Little Help for Some Team


So long, Theo?

You get the picture of this dirty-faced little kid, his nose bleeding when he walks into the house. But Theo Fleury, whose pint-sized body reminds you of one of the Little Rascals, is no kid. He’s 30 and has spent 10 years in the NHL. Still, he has lost none of his childhood feistiness.

Bleeding profusely from the ear and mouth as a result of high sticks by Dallas’ Jason Botterill and Richard Matvichuk in a Dec. 7 game, Fleury was sent to the bench by referee Mark Faucette to change his sweater. Seems the front of Fleury’s white Flames home jersey looked more like the team’s red road jersey.

But with the Flames behind by a goal and about to go on a power play, Fleury wanted to be on the ice as soon as the man-advantage situation began. Coach Brian Sutter called a 30-second timeout, hoping the trainer could return from the dressing room in time with a new Fleury jersey.


Fleury was standing topless in the runway at the Canadian Airlines Saddledome when a fan wearing a replica No. 14 Fleury sweater disrobed and began waving it around. He even passed it down, row by row, for Fleury to wear.

Never one to pass on such an innovation, Fleury pulled the jersey over his shoulder pads. But he soon realized the jersey was autographed by all of the Calgary players, including himself.

“I thought about going on the ice with it,” he said later. “But I didn’t know if it was legal or not.”

Meanwhile, the club located a No. 76 jersey with no name on it. It would be nice to say Fleury went back on the ice and scored the winning goal, but the Flames lost to the Stars, 3-2.

“There are a lot of people in the media trying to trade Theo Fleury,” says Sutter, whose team was in last place in the Northwest Division at the time. “But give me four just like him, and we’d win the Stanley Cup.

“He may be 5-6, 180, but he plays like he is 6-6, 220 pounds every night.”

But the fact remains that Fleury is in the final year of his contract playing for a non-contending team that can’t afford a superstar, even a little one. So he will be traded to another team.


Since winning the Stanley Cup with the Flames as a rookie in 1988-89, Fleury has scored 30 or more goals six times, including 51 in 1990-91. He has twice surpassed 100 points. But the numbers come with the demeanor, coincidentally at a time when A Bug’s Life is a hit in North America.

“I don’t care if he looks like an ant next to me,” says Flyers center Eric Lindros, a 6-4, 230-pounder. “He plays with a big heart. You knock him down, and he gets right back up for more.

“You have to play him very smart and very strong because he can make you look pretty bad with his speed and skill.”

Fleury would love to finish his career in Calgary, but he knows the realities of the business. The Flames have the second-lowest payroll in the NHL and have let stars Al MacInnis, Doug Gilmour and Joe Nieuwendyk walk away from the Stanley Cup team because of financial reasons.

The fan who gave the sweater off his back for Fleury is the other side of this discombobulated business. Fleury is a beloved figure in Calgary. Fans don’t want him to leave.

“He’s like that little running back with all of the moves,” says Stars defenseman Craig Ludwig, who has had many battles with Fleury. “He gives you a leg and you miss, or he muscles his way through you.”


Fleury was bouncing through the Calgary airport one morning before a trip to Tampa Bay. He stopped to fill out his customs papers when he was approached about a rumor that he had turned down a $5 million-a-year offer from the Flames.

He nearly misspelled his name on the customs papers. “Now let me get this straight,” he said, the playful grin quickly disappearing from his face. “I’m supposed to have turned down $5 million a year?

“I only wish that were true.”