SUN Hockey Pool

Just Theo being Theo

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

In the midst of Theo Fleury's collection of basement memorabilia sits a silver-plated stick he was presented by the Flames as their all-time leading scorer in 1999.

It might not be there very long.

"You might see it on eBay soon," laughed the retired Flames icon, when asked how the 10-year-old silver souvenir ranked amongst his keepsakes.

"It's not special anymore because someone broke my record."

While it's a matter of semantics now, yes, Jarome Iginla is just three points from eclipsing the 830 points Theo Fleury accrued over 11 seasons in Calgary. And while the classy captain of the club is sure to spark a lengthy standing ovation should he be able to surpass his former linemate tonight or Sunday, Fleury won't be amongst the Dome faithful for the stirring salute.

"Whatever -- records are made to be broken," said Fleury, 40, never one to mince words or placate the masses by trotting out the politically-correct sound bite.

"How many more games did he play than I did? 129? Eventually, if you're a decent player and you're around long enough, 800-some-odd points isn't that much. I was at the game the other night and we talked and he never brought it up."

Make no mistake, Iginla is primed for the honour --excited and graciously poised to assume a title that closes any debate over whether he's the greatest Flame of all time.

But no one should expect similar social graces from Fleury, whose fascinatingly complex path in life -- and unceremonial booting from the league due to substance abuse violations -- has obviously left him a tad grizzled.

"At the time, it was a great honour to look at all the great players who played there and to be on the top of the list," said Fleury, fresh off a round at Grayhawk Golf Course in Phoenix, where he'll spend the weekend working Wayne Gretzky's famed fantasy camp.

"Everybody said I wouldn't play one game in the NHL, let alone be a leading scorer, so it puts in perspective how good my career was. I played at a time when it was hard to score goals because guys were trying to take my head off. I went to the game the other night and Iggy got hit twice in the whole game. Guys figure-skate out there for 60 minutes. Back in the late '80s and early '90s, you got hit every shift. If you were the best player on the team, you got pounded, slashed or hooked. It was war every night."

None of that is to suggest Iginla lacks any of the grit, toughness or durability that has marked both their careers. It's all just part of Fleury's struggle to pay tribute in any fashion to a league that has indeed been sanitized since the 5-foot-6 mighty mite suited up.

"I averaged 30 goals a year, but with the intensity and the way I competed, I bet I could average 45 now," said Fleury, a recovering alcoholic who hasn't had a drink in years.

"I could go in front and battle for the puck and not get crosschecked in the back or hacked -- it would be awesome. It's way too watered down now."

Having lined up alongside Iginla for the current captain's very first game as a 19-year-old, Fleury insists he's long been one of No. 12's biggest supporters -- even if he has a strange way of showing it.

"I sat on many a bar stool and told him he could be one of the best in the game," said Fleury, a 455-goal scorer whose career ended in 2003 when a strip club incident prompted the league to order him to a rehab program he never attended. "Especially when we had nothing in Calgary, I said 'Iggy I need some help and you can be better.' I needed him to play better."

Well, he has -- to the point he's on the verge of earning a silver stick. Just like the one Theo used to covet.


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