I’m sure many of you have read that former All-Star Theo Fleury has shown up at camp with the Flames and has expressed a desire to return to the NHL. The NHL has already said that Fleury will need to complete the substance abuse program he was entered into when he walked away from the game some 4 years ago. Since he can’t participate with a team until he has been cleared by the NHL and the substance abuse program doctors, it is unlikely that Fleury would break camp with an NHL team as he won’t have enough time to complete the program and then win a roster spot in camp.
After competing last season in a senior league, Fleury has concluded that he is fit enough at age 41 to play in the NHL again. He hired a personal trainer to help him get back into top shape and has already sent a letter to the NHL informing them of his desire to play in the league again. Fleury was one of the best players in the NHL for a number of years until his substance abuse issues caught up with his play. Fleury has reportedly been sober for 4 years now.
While I commend Theo both on his sobriety and his competitive spirit, I don’t think he will be any more successful in his comeback bid than Claude Lemieux was last year. Theo has already overcome his lack of size to enjoy a highly successful career at this level and I would never count him out of anything entirely. However, any athlete will tell you that it is almost impossible to re-enter the competitive arena after a four-year layoff and have success; even at a younger age than Theo.
I’m sure that a team will take a flier on Theo and allow him to skate with their AHL or ECHL entry on a tryout for a period to see if he has anything left. The Sharks went so far as to send Lemieux over to an affiliate team they have in China before offering Claude the opportunity to play in the AHL. After moderate success in the AHL, Lemieux didn’t contribute much to the Sharks season and has since retired for good.
Fleury has said that his career didn’t end the way he wished and that is the motivation for his comeback bid. I wish him the best of luck but in all likelihood his skills have diminished to the point where he won’t be able to legitimately help an NHL team. This is a Hollywood story that won’t have a happy ending.
*Note: I am now on Twitter too. All hockey fans please follow me on Twitter at Gkmkiller. The truth is my fiancé signed me up for it; I don’t get the purpose of it unless she wants to track me more closely. HMMM. Anyway look for me.