|Theo Fleury's intense training and focus in his effort to win Battle of the Blades already has impressed many onlookers. (QMI Agency/Al Charest)
Battle of the Blades is just another way to break the ice in what Theoren Fleury considers the battle of his life.
"This is a difficult subject that no one wants to talk about, from (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper to the people who have been abused," said Theory, an ex-NHL player who has identified himself as a former victim of sexual crimes.
"It has become my mission to keep it in the forefront. I travel this great country of ours as a public speaker, talking about it. It never crossed my mind that at one point I'd be doing lifts and jumps. But the exposure definitely will help to continue to get the message out.
"Sexual abuse, sexual violence, rape -- this is the biggest epidemic we have on the planet, whether we know it or not."
CBC's Battle of the Blades, which begins its second season on Sunday, Sept. 26, pairs former NHLers with female figure skaters in a figure skating competition.
The participants compete for charity, and Fleury's choice is The Men's Project, a non-profit agency that provides healing programs for men who have experienced sexual or physical abuse as children.
"There are a whole lot of little groups doing amazing work, but they don't get government funding," Fleury said. "Once my foundation gets up and running, there's going to be a significant fund-raising element, because if government isn't going to support us, we have to try to do it ourselves."
In Fleury's autobiography Playing with Fire, which was published last year, he alleged he was sexually abused by his former junior hockey coach Graham James. Fleury wrote that the alleged abuse pushed him down a path of substance abuse and self-destructive behaviour that lasted for decades, even as he was one of the top players in the NHL.
So has Fleury's life changed since his book came out?
"My life has changed immensely since the book came out, and all for the good," Fleury said. "When you're able to go from being a victim to being a survivor, life changes for the good."
Fleury's intense training and focus in his effort to win Battle of the Blades already has impressed many onlookers.
"It's all about the 'W'," said Fleury, reminding us again just how competitive top-tier athletes have to be. "For sure, (Battle of the Blades) is fun, but anything that's fun is hard work.
"Parents cringe when I say this, but if we put our kids in sports only to have fun, then there wouldn't be a scoreboard. Having fun is one thing, but if we teach them it's only about fun, then we're also teaching them that underachieving is okay."
In his new role as an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, Fleury is determined to be an overachiever.
"Whether I knew it or not, God had a plan for me," Fleury said. "And this is the plan. That is what I figured out during the process.
"So now, at 42, I've been able to get through my own personal stuff, and I'm ready to spend the next 40, 50 years really trying to make a difference in the world."
Battle of The Blades: Season Two