Fleury thankful for public support

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:02 PM ET

TORONTO — One of the things that keeps former NHL star Theo Fleury going every day is the fact that so many other people have experienced the pain and suffering he has, and now he has the chance to help.

Fleury, in Toronto on Wednesday to attend the annual Conn Smythe Sports Celebrities Dinner and auction, has become a major advocate for sexual abuse awareness and spends much of his time talking to groups and individuals and the media about it.

“The e-mails I receive on a daily basis would blow your mind,” said Fleury, adding that he answers "every single one."

“They are (from) people who have had similar experiences, who don’t know where to start, or have been in therapy for 10 years and have no relief, which tells me that we need more therapists and psychologists that need to become more educated.”

Earlier this month, Fleury filed a complaint with the Winnipeg police department against his former junior coach, Graham James, claiming, as he wrote in his autobiography Playing with Fire, that James abused him.

Through his website (theofleury14.com) and various support groups, Fleury, who won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989, an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada in 2002 and a world junior title in 1988, has reached out to thousands, with the message that there is help, and hope.

“It’s amazing how many people have (gone) through this,” said Fleury. “I feel I’m one of the luckier ones, that I’ve been able to get to a real good place in my life. But I know there’s lot of people out there that are struggling. But in the end, I hope they can look at me as an example of never giving up — just surround yourself with good people. In the past, that wasn’t the case for me. But now I have a tremendous group of people around me to support what I’m doing and we’re excited about the future.”

Fleury had a spectacular NHL career, scoring 455 goals with 633 assists for 1,088 points, but the abuse at the hands of Graham tormented him for most of his life. That led the diminutive right winger — who was drafted 166th overall by the Flames in 1987 — to turn to alcohol and drugs, resulting in a suspension in April 2003 for violating the league’s substance abuse program, which effectively ended his NHL career.

He did attempt a comeback this season with the Flames and, despite the disappointment with being cut, the 41-year-old Fleury said he is totally content and finally has reached the point of his life where he was able to launch a complaint against James.

“Because I’m in a strong place now, I can go and help so many other people,” he said.


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