Fleury could be a big hit

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

Theo Fleury is on the verge of a comeback.

Of sorts.

One month shy of his 40th birthday, the Little Big Man told the Sun yesterday he's ready to get back into the game.

Thing is, it's not the game you'd expect.

The former Flames icon is now setting his sights on playing pro baseball for the Calgary Vipers, who recently transferred from the Northern to the Golden League.

The team opens its regular season Friday night in Edmonton against the host Cracker-Cats.

More than five years after substance abuse issues derailed his NHL career, hockey's angriest little Mighty Mite is now looking to face a different kind of heat, making him a 5-ft.-6, modern-day version of Michael Jordan.

"I'm better than Michael Jordan," laughed Fleury, days after meeting with Vipers manager Mike Busch.

"I was probably a better baseball player than I was a hockey player. We were one game away from going to the Little League World Series."

The Vipers confirmed yesterday they're close to coming to terms with Fleury on a contract that will see him join the team at some time during the season -- a possibility that has Fleury jacked up despite the fact he hasn't played organized baseball since he was 14.

"I haven't seen too many 90 m.p.h. fastballs at Fleury's Concrete," chuckled the former catcher ("I'm a control freak," he said of his position), adding that his upstart family business had a men's league team last year.

"We didn't do very well and I hate losing, plus I'm so busy."

In a world of minor-league baseball known for publicity stunts, Fleury and Busch both had fun with the prospect the former 50-goal scorer might suit up at some point.

"The maximum contract is $800 a week so it might be one of those things where it's similar to Billy Crystal playing one game for the Yankees," said Fleury, who will soon start taking batting practice with the club, which hosts the Cracker-Cats in its home-opener May 29 at Foothills Stadium, where he'll throw out the first pitch and sign autographs.

"Who knows, maybe I'll go four-for-four or something and fast track to the majors. I could have a Derek Sanderson clause were I only play homes games -- that's why I retired from the NHL, because I hated travel."

The laughs continued.

Fact is, Fleury's connection with the Vipers came about as he searched for a way to start marketing and selling his clothing line, FAKE Apparel.

"We're getting into sports t-shirts, hockey jerseys, hockey sticks, gloves and hats -- FAKE stands for Fleury's Artists Custom Enterprises," said Fleury, who'll launch the line at Hockey Night in Canada's 4-on-4 road hockey tourney in Calgary in mid-June.

"I was hanging out with Jesse James from West Coast Choppers and I gave him one of our t-shirts and he really liked it."

One of the most beloved, controversial figures in the history of the Calgary sports landscape, Fleury has done well to clean up his life, remarrying, addressing his drinking problem and setting up a successful concrete business.

However, it seems like everything the Olympic gold medallist and Stanley Cup champion has done is news since an incident at a Columbus strip club violated the league's substance abuse program and ended his career.

Whether it's playing for the Horse Lake Thunder, Belfast Giants, starting up Fleury's Concrete or filming a reality show pilot based on his business, Fleury is still big news.

"We talked for 35 minutes and kicked around the idea (of a tryout) -- what a great dude," said Busch, whose club features several local prospects.

"If we ever get to the situation and he (plays for the team) it's great for the city. Everybody knows him and what a great career he had. Plus we can have a little fun doing it."

Something Fleury is sure to have whatever he's doing.


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