Despite being in the midst of a drug and alcohol-fueled road trip with Flames teammates a dozen years back, Theo Fleury clearly remembers young Jarome Iginla shedding his clothes to settle a bet.
Making a roadside pit stop alongside a thawing B.C. lake in early spring, Fleury recalls his annual post-season wrapup party got particularly chilling one year when Iginla was essentially dared by a dozen teammates to swim out to a buoy for promises of cash.
“Before we knew it, Iggy was buck-naked and running into the water,” writes Fleury in his 300-page autobiography Playing with Fire, released yesterday.
“It was April and the ice had just melted, so the water temperature was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, absolutely freezing. I was laughing at him and yelling, ‘You are going to make 30 million bucks someday and (you’re) out there swimming around for a hundred bucks, you idiot.’”
A second-year player at the time, Iginla said yesterday the book is wildly inaccurate in one regard:
“I made $500 and I was pretty pumped,” laughed Iginla, when asked if he had any concerns about what may be in his former teammate’s tell-all book.
“There are pictures of that so I guess I am concerned about that because it was pretty cold water. I almost had hypothermia. I probably shouldn’t have done it and I definitely don’t recommend it. But it felt good taking their money. I don’t think those pictures will be in the book.”
What is in the book makes for a fascinating read as Fleury dishes on everything from the Flames’ past cheapness and his role to the Punch-up in Piestany to the details of a two-day drug binge that led to his first substance abuse suspension from the NHL.
While early headlines concerning the book have revolved around Fleury’s excessive drug, alcohol and gambling issues stemming from the revelation he was abused by coach Graham James, the book sheds light on so much more.
As part of, “A fifty million dollar career gone up my nose, down my throat and into the hands of casino owners across the country,” Fleury speaks of sleeping with 20 women in a two month span, passing drug tests with Gatorade or his baby’s urine and partying non-stop during a season-opening trip to Japan with the Flames on which he showed up at practice drunk and stoned.
To avoid violating the league’s substance abuse program Fleury hid his gambling issues by changing his name to Teddy Mohegan whenever he showed up at his favourite casino outside Manhattan. It was there he remembers losing $150,000 one night as well as walking out with $250,000 in craps winnings another morning in which he proceeded to McDonald’s on his way to practice.
Following a $50,000 win at the casino one evening he bought teammate Bryan Berard’s Porsche on a whim, with cash.
The gambling issue got so intense he had a helicopter pick him up near Madison Square Garden to take him to Atlantic City where he’d stay in Donald Trump’s penthouse suite for 48 hours of nonstop gambling and partying before flying straight to the Rangers practice facility in Rye, N.Y.
His time in New York includes rooming in Manhattan with former Flame Sandy McCarthy the day the Twin Towers were downed and not being panicked at all as he was in a state when he didn’t care if he lived or died.
After years of infidelity he moved into a Soho loft with Canadian actor Jason Priestley and dealt with having Islanders fans chant “Crackhead” every time he touched the puck. For the record, the 41-year-old recovering alcoholic wants it to be known the list of drugs he took never included crack. Coke was his drug of choice, although on one Flames post-season retreat at his cabin he bought a “bag of weed the size of a toddler.”
He writes of how empowering it was to sleep with strippers and how he spent $30,000 at the infamous Gold Club strip joint in Atlanta one night, tipping off wife Veronica whose credit cards were denied the next day as Fleury maxed them out at “a car wash.”
As he boasts, “I’ve been to every strip club in North America. Twice.”
At one point he hated hockey so much he wrapped up a season in New York with a three-week, $300,000 party binge.
He tells of being arrested following an argument with an ex-girlfriend, how he sat with a gun in his mouth and almost pulled the trigger and lets the reader in on how little he remembers from that fateful night in a Columbus strip club that ended his career and left him a bloodied mess.
How he managed to author a Hall of Fame career despite all the demons he battled away from the rink is incredible.
As is the book, in which he exposes himself in ways no one in pro sports ever has.