SUN Hockey Pool

When will Flames retire No. 14?

Theo Fleury's comeback attempt with the Flames was a big story. The retirement of his No. 14 jersey...

Theo Fleury's comeback attempt with the Flames was a big story. The retirement of his No. 14 jersey would be welcomed by many of the team's fans. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:27 AM ET

It’s been more than two decades since the little sparkplug’s dynamic junior career with the Moose Jaw Warriors came to a close.

Friday night, Theoren Fleury was finally honoured by his former club, inducted into the Warriors’ Hall of Fame along with Scott Thomas — a guy who totalled 56 points in three seasons with the WHL team.

It’s been 22 years. What took so long?

Fleury still holds the team’s records in career goals (201), assists (271) and points (472) from four years of dominance in the Friendly City.

Grinders and roleplayers like Mike Keane and Kelly Buchberger got in before the most skilled kid ever to suit up in the red, white and black.

Similarly, it’s been more than 10 years since Fleury left Calgary as the Flames franchise’s goals and points leader.

With a comeback tryout in training camp a year ago seemingly burying the hatchet over the way he was traded away over contract concerns back in 1999, it appeared Fleury would soon see his jersey raised to the Saddledome rafters the way former teammate Mike Vernon did in 2007.

But the same fiery characteristics that made Fleury arguably the most loved player in Flames history are the same that could keep him from being celebrated. He’s almost always willing to offer his opinion, often unfiltered and without concern over how his words may come back to haunt him.

While things were finally going his way last season — fresh pre-season memories reminding people why they loved watching him during his heyday — Fleury stuck his skate in his mouth.

Quick to thank the Flames for the opportunity to leave the NHL on his own terms after a six-year banishment that was littered with alcohol and drug abuse, and plenty of nasty words for the league that spawned a fortune he binged away, he couldn’t bite his tongue midseason while typing up a blog for his personal website.

Claiming he shouldn’t have been cut, and calling those who run the hockey world stupid, he bashed goal-less Flames veteran Craig Conroy and suggested defenceman Robyn Regehr be traded away for some help for Jarome Iginla.

Surely hoping he didn’t burn his last bridge to the NHL, Fleury apologized in a contrite blog the next week.

But the damage had been done. Rumours of an office job with the organization were floated during his comeback attempt.

You haven’t heard a whisper of it since.

And there’s no telling when he might see his jersey lifted above the ice in Calgary. It took 22 years for his junior club to honour him, proving character is considered more important than talent when it comes to celebrating a star.

His hockey life has come full circle, joining the Hall in a city that both kickstarted his career and began a lifelong nightmare thanks to the alleged abuse of convicted pedophile Graham James — his first junior coach.

The Warriors have now determined Fleury worthy.

With years of sobriety under his belt and a new reputation being built as a voice against sexual abuse and violence against children, his character off the ice is finally catching up to the skill he always displayed on it.

If his life continues in the same direction, the Flames will undoubtedly follow suit.

As long as Fleury’s penchant for untimely outbursts doesn’t get in the way.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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