The Calgary Flames 7-3 victory tonight over the St. Louis Blues featured a lot of the same ol', same ol', including shotty officiating which seems to be the norm of late in the league. But this game had something else too, and I'm glad it did as I gave away tickets to other games down the stretch to ensure my butt was in the seats tonight. Jarome Iginla passed Theoren Fleury for the all-time lead in goals by a member of the Calgary Flames. Iginla will hopefully retire in the Flaming C and will be a leader and face in the community for years to come. It was great seeing him on the jumbo-tron trying not to smile after he hammered a vintage Iginla one-timer passed Legace. I hope to see many more, and in the words of Theoren Fleury in his video tribute to Iginla, "we'll see you at 500!"... I can only hope.
But I want to take this opportunity to look back at the career of Theoren Fleury, my all-time favorite hockey player. He's resurrected his life in Calgary as he and his family operate a successful business now, and he's completely sober.
I don't remember Fleury's first NHL game. I was only 6. I do know that he was lighting up the minor's in what I believe was Salt Lake. At 5'6, the Flames needed a spark, and Fleury was just that. The following year, the Flames won the cup, and Fleury was a contributer... but I still don't remember him.
1990 was the year he absolutely burst onto the scene, and who can forget the overtime winner in game 6 against the Edmonton Oilers where he slid along the length of the ice with his hands in the air. This is Theoren Fleury... being a little small for my age, I always wanted to be Theo on the ice.
Theo and MacInnis would then go on to post 100 point seasons together in the same year. Fleury dominated. He killed penalties and scored short-handed, he scored even-strength, he fought whoever got in his way. In fact, if my memory serves me correct, Theo is the only player in the history of the NHL to get a short-handed hat-trick.
I remember when the Flames beat the Quebec Nordiques on Hockey Night in Canada by a score of 10-8. Joe Sakic had a hat trick for the Nords, but more importantly on this night, the Flames were paced by Theo Fleury and his hat trick.
I remember when Theo got a hat trick in the first period of a game.
He was one of a kind, and my favorite player to watch, my favorite player to cheer for and my favorite Flame of all time... I thought he'd be in Calgary for the rest of his career, the thought of him leaving never even crossed my mind.
In 1999, it was clear the Jarome Iginla was something special and that the Flames were going to build around him. Theo was a UFA, the canadian dollar was weak and the Flames were in danger of leaving altogether. Thankfully, the Flames stayed, but Theo had to be dealt. For me, it was like how Oilers fans felt when Ryan Smyth left. I was absolutely devastated. I couldn't watch the Flames anymore... I mean, Rene Corbet and some defenseman who had just broken his legs in a car accident. Great. Obviously that player we now know as Robyn Regehr, one of the top shut-down d-man in the game (also the player on the back of my jersey).
Fleury did great in Colorado, but bolted to New York in the off-season where they formed the FLY line with Lindros and York and had a few good seasons.
Don't hold it against me for not bringing up the bad stuff surrounding Fleury... I prefer to remember these things about his career.
2002... His final season with the New York Rangers but more importantly, one of the final inclusions on the Canadian Olympic roster. Theo shone for Canada during that tournament and many Flames fans and hockey fans will remember Wayne Gretzky saying Theo Fleury was his most important player during that tournament. #74 (Theo wore this because Shanahan had 14... coincidentally the number on my rec hockey jersey!) had reached the top of his career... and it came crashing down shortly after that.
But before his NHL career ended, Fleury had a pit-stop in Chicago with Brian Sutter who had coached him in Calgary. I was vacationing in Los Angeles for New Years and the Blackhawks just happened to be in town to face the Kings. We got seats for the game and sat just 8 rows behind the Blackhawks bench. This was the closest I'd ever been to Theo and I got to watch him like it was his old Calgary Flames self. He scored the games opening goal (i think!) and then in the second period he started a line brawl that ended with him being ejected from the game. Vintage Theo. I'll never forget that. Little did I know that he'd only play a few more games in the NHL.
It's great to see Jarome pass Theo. I'm so pumped I was at the game. I kept telling my girlfriend that people will talk about this game in Calgary for years to come. It was a classy move by Theo to give Jarome a video tribute and a nice passing of the torch as Iginla has now become the most beloved Flame of all time... many would argue he's already there... some would also argue that Lanny holds that mark. Regardless, it was a night to remember... but also a night for me to reflect back on the man who had such a strong impact on my life and despite his off the ice problems, was an inspiration to me and so many others for the way he carried himself on the ice.
My only hope is that his number is the next to see the rafters in the 'dome...