SUN Hockey Pool

Flame never died in Theo

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:19 PM ET

His emotion was obvious.

His determination and focus even moreso.

Feeling like a rookie again as the Calgary Flames kicked off training camp with physicals and fitness testing for the veterans, the most veteran of them all arrived knowing he was starting from scratch.

"I have to earn everything again -- and I'm OK with that," the 41-year-old Theoren Fleury said yesterday at the end of a session that officially welcomed him to his tryout with the NHL team he started his career with more than 20 years ago.

"I tried to stay as calm as I could today. I didn't have any expectations when I came to the rink. I was super happy -- first of all that I got cleared, second of all to earn a tryout with the team that I've had tattooed on my heart since my Moose Jaw days.

"It's gonna be exciting. It's gonna be a lot of fun. But after today, I'm just a regular member of the Calgary Flames trying to earn a spot on this team. That's what I'll try to do.

"I won't leave anything in the tank. It's all gonna be left here. I think if I do that, I'll have a pretty good chance."

Every workout, every on-ice session he's taken part over the past year was done with the intention of re-joining the Flames.

GM Darryl Sutter gave him that opportunity following Fleury's re-instatement by the league late Thursday, ending his six-year suspension under the substance-abuse policy.

"Once we determined that Theoren was training to our standards and the league permitted his return to on-ice competition, it wasn't a hard decision for us to provide him with this opportunity," Sutter said in a statement. "This is a day-to-day thing, and we will develop our expectations over the course of training camp."

Fleury's expectations are grand, but he's also taking it day-by-day.

"The last few days have been crazy. I never thought in my wildest dreams four years ago I'd be standing here and you guys would be talking about me putting on the skates again. It's a miracle," Fleury said. "If I can get here, then I certainly think I can get a little further than today."

Asked whether he thought he'd play like the old, edgy face of the Flames, the 5-foot-6 fireplug paused briefly and got philosophical.

"I don't know. There's a blank sheet of ice out there, right now. Every day and every period, there's a different story that gets written," Fleury said. "The game's changed. How much, I don't know. That's kind of why I'm here, too, I'm curious. Everybody tells me the game's better. I want to know for a fact if it is.

"Hopefully, I still belong in it."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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