Theo feeling at home in Dome

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

The cheer from the fans didn't sound the least bit out of place.

Not for Theoren Fleury.

Not at the Saddledome.

Fleury's first day on the ice in his comeback attempt with the Calgary Flames featured something you don't often see in practice -- a roar from the crowd when he teamed up with Carsen Germyn on a two-on-one play for a goal.

"It's better than getting booed," Fleury said with a grin. "I know that."

There are a lot of smiles from Fleury these days.

Not only did he survive the team's fitness testing, but the player who's been out of the league more than six years was back at it the next day.

Anybody who's had 40 candles alight their birthday cake can only imagine how sore he'd have been.

Instead, Fleury -- the 41-year-old former team captain who was donning No. 14 on his helmet -- was more excited yesterday than sore. At least, the buzz overcame any pain.

"I woke up a 6 o'clock this morning wide awake and ready to go," Fleury said. "So there was definitely some excitement.

"I tried to make sure I didn't trip when I came out on the ice for the first time.

"It was fun. It was good to get out there, handle the puck, get into some drills. It was good. There's a lot of fantastic memories I have playing in this building."

Where his comeback attempt ends up is anybody's guess. The club's former all-time leading scorer netted 1,088 points in 1,084 games over his 15-year NHL career and is in training camp without a contract.

He'd love to make the Flames.

Maybe he'll be a perfect player for the AHL's Abbotsford Heat -- and be ready for NHL action over the course of the season after skating in a whack of minor-league games.

Or maybe he'll re-retire.

Fleury's not looking that far ahead. He won't even publicly consider playing in the team's first pre-season game tomorrow against the Edmonton Oilers -- even if everybody around the Saddledome would love to see him wearing the Flaming C for a Battle of Alberta exhibition match.

"I have to get through (today) before I can move on to the next day," Fleury said.

So the first day was one to relish the opportunity and be reminded how good NHL players are.

The pace of practice is a lot quicker than even skating with pros at the Westside Recreation Centre.

"This is the National Hockey League, and I didn't expect anything less," Fleury said.

"I can see myself getting better. I think the biggest hurdle was (Saturday). Just realizing I belong here, fitness-wise. I think I've always been able to play hockey -- it was just a matter of the fitness part. I was really excited about the fitness part and how well I tested. My numbers were right where they needed to be.

"It was a matter of getting on the ice, feeling the puck and shooting the puck."

Lord knows he could play the game. He's the last Flame to rack up 100 points in a season, which he did twice in Flames silks.

And, he'd be as good to give out advice as to receive it.

"It's both ways," Fleury said. "Everybody here has been more than welcoming. It's been fun. I have a boy as old as some of these guys, so I do feel a bit like a senior citizen, but I'm competing against them."

Maybe soon he'll be playing with them, too. Don't write off Fleury earning a pro contract.

If he's willing to start in the minors, he very well climb back to the NHL.

"I'm looking forward to the naps, for sure," Fleury said of playing games.

"It's just a matter of the more days go by, the more I feel comfortable. It's not like I haven't been here before.

"And I just got to have fun -- enjoy this for however long it lasts. Hopefully, it lasts a long time."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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