It's game on for Fleury

DALE WOODARD -- Grande Prairie Herald-Tribune

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

GRANDE PRAIRE -- As the newest member of the Horse Lake Thunder, Theoren Fleury will no doubt be looked to for timely goals.

But off the ice, the former Calgary Flame plans on scoring a few points with local youth as well.

"That will certainly be part of it -- absolutely," said Fleury, on the phone from his home in Calgary last night. "There will be days off where we're not playing, and it'll be an opportunity not only for myself but a bunch of us guys will be around to zip off to the (Horse Lake reserve), and hang out with the kids and chat with them and do whatever we can."

The Thunder announced Fleury's signing at a press conference in Grande Prairie yesterday. The 36-year-old product of Russell, Man., is currently under suspension since violating substance-abuse rules in 2003.

He debuts with the Thunder tonight against the Grande Prairie Athletics in a North Peace Hockey League senior game at the Coca-Cola Centre in Grande Prairie.

LOADING UP FOR A RUN

Fleury joins a Horse Lake team that won a league title in its inaugural season last year and is now loading up for a run at the Allan Cup national senior AAA championship.

In October, the Thunder signed ex-NHL Vancouver and Montreal tough guy Gino Odjick, former San Jose Sharks forward Dody Wood, and Sasha Lakovic, who played briefly with the Flames and New Jersey Devils.

Odjick flies in from Vancouver, where he still lives and works at a golf course. He also helps out at Horse Lake's year-round hockey school and helps counsel youth on an informal basis.

On the ice, it's not surprising the Thunder are the top draw in the NPHL, which has teams in the Alberta and B.C. Peace Country. Crowds of more than 1,000 -- three times more than normal -- have packed tiny arenas to see the powerful squad light up their home team on the scoreboard (the Thunder are 15-0).

The Thunder kick off their Allan Cup drive Jan. 12 when they face the Stony Plain Eagles in the first game of a best-of-five quarter-final series.

FLEURY'S COUSIN

Another Thunder player is Todd Holt, Fleury's cousin and a junior star at Swift Current. It was through Holt that Fleury asked to join the team.

Fleury then met with Horse Lake coach Glen Watson, the former coach of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League's OCN Blizzard, and Horse Lake Band chief Dion Horseman.

"Basically he was interested in getting back and playing some hockey," said Watson.

And, despite the rumours swirling around that suggest otherwise (some Horse Lake band members claim Odjick was offered $10,000 up front and $1,000 a week), the Thunder say Fleury's services are free.

"There's no money. The guy is set up pretty good for life," said Watson. "Again, it's just for the fun of playing hockey, and the Allan Cup is a pretty prestigious cup to win.

"We have some tough battles and we start next week against Stony Plain (Eagles). This is a big signing for us. To get him, that's a pretty special guy to have. I think we probably would never had got him if Todd wasn't on our team."

Fleury said an Allan Cup title is one team award that's missing from his trophy case.

"I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it. Obviously, I think the biggest reason why I'm there is for the Allan Cup run," said Fleury.

"I have two brothers (Ted and Travis) and a father (Wally) that have chased that dream for a long time and they've both come short. So it would be kind of neat to be able to not only do that for myself, but them as well."


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