Sunday, July 10, 2011


~From the big league to the to the beer league and back again~

by Theo Fleury, Kirstie McLellan Day, Wayne Gretzky
4 of 5 stars4.5

Opening Line: “As far back as I can remember, every hockey rink that I walked into, people would whisper, that’s him…that’s him”

This is a startlingly honest autobiography that any true hockey fan (in particular the Canadian ones) will just eat up. Giving you all the dirt and behind the bench information you weren’t aware you wanted to know. It’s a gritty look at the real NHL, inside the locker rooms, the players, the coaches, the contracts, the money and all that brings to a small town boy who makes it into the big leagues. Oh course here we also get the well publicized issue of Theo’s sexual abuse and eventual fall from grace through drugs and alcohol, walking away from the NHL and millions of dollars in the middle of his career.

I will admit this started out a little slow for me, with a lot of (too many) names, stats and specific plays thrown out that as a casual hockey fan I had trouble caring about. (True fans will love it though) However by the end I couldn’t put this down, becoming completely engrossed in Theo’s struggles, personal life and rise and fall within the NHL. He doesn’t hold back anything here and I found it interesting that someone with such a HUGE ego (which is off-putting at times) could talk so honestly about his demons and what a mess he made of his life when he obviously thinks so much of himself.

Theo’s story begins in Russell Saskatchewan -well after the whole suicidal, cocaine infused, gun in mouth, I hate the world prologue that is. A small kid with a lot of anger and a less then ideal upbringing, who discovers hockey as a means of salvation and escape. From day one it was obvious Theo had a gift; walking by himself down to the outdoor rink at the age of 5 with a pair of rusty skates and a broken stick. Three hours later they had to force him to go home. His goal was always to play in the NHL and from the time he was 6 until he got called up in 1989 with the Calgary Flames that was exactly what he was going to do.

We follow Theo through the juniors and minor leagues into Calgary with subsequent trades to New York, Colorado and Chicago. We witness him winning the world junior championship, Stanley Cup, Canada cup, Olympic gold and with 450 career goals we watch a sad, lonely man self destruct in a hurricane of cocaine, alcohol, gambling and strippers. Unable to handle the pressure of the media, ex wives, coaches and the constant drug testing and mandatory rehab Theo simply walks away from it all, spending the next 6 years playing in a beer league and partying. The extent of Theo’s self destruction was unbelievable and truly sad, the absolute waste of it all.

Throughout Theo makes no apologies for his behaviour, laying it all on the table. And while much was made in the media regarding the abuse he suffered by Coach Graham James it wasn’t discussed here to the extent I would’ve expected. It’s my opinion though that it played a huge part in his becoming an addict.

In the end his story comes full circle so that within the final chapters, we also get to see a happily married and sober for the first time in his adult life Theo make a comeback. At the age of 41 and once again playing for Calgary he redeems himself in a 4-4 shootout against the New York Islanders before retiring to life of sobriety and public speaking.

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