Fleury up and wait

NEAL TALBOT AND SCOTT SEYMOUR, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:23 AM ET

GRANDE PRAIRIE -- The playing status of former Flame Theo Fleury remained in limbo yesterday as his would-be senior team prepared to appeal a Hockey Alberta ruling preventing him from playing for them. "Things are now in the hands of people who we think can get this thing overturned and it's just a matter of waiting and see what happens," Fleury said from his hotel room in Grande Prairie Friday afternoon.

"If they stick to the (Hockey Alberta) rules and regulations there's no reason I shouldn't be able to play."

As of last night, however, Horse Lake manager Rod McDonald said the team's lawyer had yet to file an appeal. But he planned to do so today in an attempt to get Fleury in the lineup for its game tonight against the Spirit River Rangers at home on the Horse Lake reserve, located about 60 km northwest of Grande Prairie.

"If it takes a formal appeal, yes, we will file an appeal," McDonald said.

The Thunder announced Wednesday they had signed the 36-year-old Fleury as the centrepiece of its run to the Allan Cup senior AAA national championship later this month.

Fleury, who has been under suspension since 2003 for violation of the NHL's substance abuse policy, was supposed to make his Thunder debut in an NPHL game Thursday night in Grande Prairie.

But Hockey Alberta scuttled those plans, ruling because he was under contract in 2003-04 to the Chicago Blackhawks, he could not play.

Brad Robbins, Hockey Alberta's manager of hockey operations, noted the provincial organization ruled last October that locked-out NHLers would not be able to play senior hockey in Alberta.

That decision was upheld in December when Edmonton Oilers star Ryan Smyth was prevented from playing senior hockey with his brothers in Bentley, Alta.

"Unless new information arrives through the course of an appeal or new information arrives that we can review, our decision will remain as is," said Robbins on a conference call, noting Fleury and the Thunder have seven days to appeal.

Fleury told reporters he had enlisted the help of Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson in overturning the Hockey Alberta ruling.

But Nicholson said yesterday he told Fleury Hockey Alberta will make the call on the situation.

Nicholson said Hockey Canada will help gather information from the NHL and the NHL Players Association to more closely examine Fleury's contract "and the actual situation that happened with Theo.

"At this time, we're still waiting and we haven't received anything in writing from either the NHL or the NHLPA," Nicholson said.

Chicago Blackhawks senior vice-president and general manager Bob Pulford voiced his support for the embattled winger yesterday.

"If he can overcome his terrible disease (substance abuse addiction), by playing hockey somewhere, we'd be happy to see him back on the ice," Pulford said, adding the Blackhawks had done nothing to stop Fleury from playing for another team.

"I hope he does well."


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