Fleury urges others to make a difference

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

A crowd of at least 200 people lined up next to a bookstore at Polo Park last night got much more than Theo Fleury's autograph on the cover of his autobiography.

Before sitting down to sign copies of Playing With Fire, the former NHL star from Russell, Man., delivered a message aimed not only at abuse victims like him, but at anyone struggling in life.

"If I've inspired you, now it's your turn to go out and inspire someone else," Fleury said. "If we do that, geez, this is going to be a better place. That's what I try to do every single day: help one person who's less fortunate than I am. If you're sitting at home and feeling lousy about yourself, go out and help someone. You'll get things that you can't possibly imagine."

That's certainly happened to Fleury, an alcoholic, drug-addled and washed-up hockey player five years ago, a sober, best-selling author with a new life ahead of him today.

The former Stanley Cup and Olympic gold-medal winner is selling books like he used to score goals -- in bunches. There could be a movie coming, chronicling his rise to and fall from the NHL, the substance abuse and the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of junior hockey coach Graham James as a teenager.

But he sounded just as excited about making a difference in others' lives.

"In the end what I want you to feel and desire is to make some changes to your own life," he said. "I made one small change, and that was to stop drinking and drugging, and this is what has come out of it.

"When I look back at how fearful I was of that change, I laugh now."

Fleury cited statistics which suggest one in three girls and one in six boys are sexually molested by the time they turn 18.

"That's why I wrote this book," he said. "In Toronto, in Vancouver, in Calgary -- and I'm sure tonight -- there's a lot of people who leaned over at the book signing and said, 'Me, too.' That's what gives me inspiration.

"Nobody wants to talk about it. I'm strong enough to be able to stand up in front. Because I made one choice on Sept. 18, 2005."

Fleury being honest with himself and revealing the abuse has healed him.

"By doing that I've taken away the power of the abuse."

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos