SUN Hockey Pool

Forecast calling for Fleury

Former Flames forward Theo Fleury will skate with the team today at training camp. (Sun Media File...

Former Flames forward Theo Fleury will skate with the team today at training camp. (Sun Media File Photo)

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

The flood of emotion that followed Theo Fleury's reinstatement Thursday night was replaced yesterday by a game face he'll put on display for the Flames today.

As first reported in the Sun, Fleury will, in fact, get a shot to complete his comeback with the club he started his career with 20 years earlier.

And while some believe he's doing it for the money, he insists it has everything to do with his sanity.

"I need to know -- I need to find out so that I can friggin' sleep at night," said the 41-year-old winger, who confirmed he'll be in an NHL camp today.

"Nobody thinks I can do this. I'm the only one who thinks I can. And that's great. It's about focus now -- I've got something I want to accomplish."

As for whether a failed concrete coating business combined with an old divorce and pricey support payments left him financially strapped, he shrugged.

"If you can't make money, you're lazy or you're stupid, which I'm neither."

Out of respect for the club giving him the chance few believed possible, Fleury won't admit the Flames are the ones giving him a no-strings attached tryout. The Flames won't admit it either.

But let's put it this way: Fleury said from his Calgary home last night he'll open camp with someone today, and he has no plans to board a plane this weekend.

Given the sentimentality involved with the most colourful and controversial Flame of all time, the club is waiting until today to make it official as they want the biggest bang for their buck, which is what this all really comes down to anyway.

Fleury can help sell out the building in Abbotsford, where the club's new AHL affiliate could use his star power. As a nice aside he can also retire a Flame, have his no. 14 raised to the rafters and, heck, the Little Big Man might even have enough game to defy all the odds once again.

"If I end up playing (in the AHL) I'm fine with that," said Fleury, suspended indefinitely six years ago for violating the league's substance abuse policies.

"I have no idea where I'm at as a player. I think I do but until I'm actually on the ice competing and trying to do the same thing other guys are I don't know where I'm at."

Insisting he hadn't talked to agent Don Baizley all day yesterday and was unsure how many teams showed interest in his services, he said he was in no position to seek guaranteed money.

"I'm not delusional anymore," laughed Fleury, who will spend the fourth anniversary of his sobriety in Flames camp.

"I wanted a good fit and a team that had an opportunity to win. For me it was always about winning first."

More important, it was always about returning to Calgary, which is why he told GM Darryl Sutter last spring of his comeback plans and new dedication to fitness -- a facet of his game that wasn't particularly stellar even at the height of his career. As Sutter himself hinted last month, fitness will likely be Fleury's ultimate downfall at age 41. Still, Sutter's respect for Fleury will earn him a shot.

So, how would a return to the NHL rank amongst the 455-goal scorer's considerable accomplishments?

"They might have to wait until the second period to put me out there because I'll just be a puddle," said Fleury, whose emotions have long got the best of him.

"Let's just say it'll kind of solidify the fact that this is my life: If you put something in front of me I usually succeed."

And where better to do it than Calgary where his career rose, only to fall upon his abrupt departure. Theo Fleury is indeed back. How long he'll stay is the only question left.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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