December 13, 2017

Digging The Puck Out Of The Corners of Trauma

Contact sports are about mitigating damage.  A boxer, NFL player and NHL winger know they are entering the field of play to sustain a certain amount of physical trauma.  Their preparation involves not only delivering such trauma, but also receiving it.  Keep that mind when reading what follows.

With sexual assault on the front pages of print and digital media, I think it’s appropriate to write about Outta The Park’s interview with Theo Fleury.

I read his first book, “Playing with Fire”, when it was released.

I couldn’t put it down. In fact, it was such an easy read the pages almost turned themselves. Many of the topics were heavy.


As you heard in part 1 of the our interview with Theo, suicide was something he more than considered.  This particular subject is something I can relate to.

To listen to the interview, please click here.

For those that haven’t read “Playing With Fire”, here is the synopsis:

“Theo Fleury, at 5’6″ made a name for himself in a game played by giants. A star in junior hockey, he became an integral part of the Calgary Flames’ Stanley Cup win in 1989. Fleury’s talent was such that despite a growing drug habit and erratic, inexplicable behaviour on and off the ice, Wayne Gretzky believed in him. He became a key member of the gold medal–winning men’s hockey team at the 2002 Olympics.

The Colorado Avalanche picked up Fleury for the playoffs, and when he signed with the New York Rangers, he was a kid in a candy store. After one season into his next multi-million-dollar deal, this time with the Chicago Blackhawks, Fleury suddenly called it quits and wouldn’t explain why.

In Playing with Fire, Theo Fleury takes us behind the bench during his glorious days as an NHL player and talks about growing up devastatingly poor and in chaos at home. Dark personal issues haunted him, with drinking, drugs, gambling and girls ultimately derailing his Hall of Fame–calibre career. “ –

Not to play spoiler, but Theo was sexually assaulted by a former hockey coach. Its an absolutely harrowing tale.

This, he writes, is what sent him into a tailspin as an adult. The unresolved feelings and trauma caused him to seek out substance and self destructive behaviour as a way to deal with what he felt he couldn’t reveal and cope with.

He burned through $50 million dollars of NHL salary and still wasn’t happy.

After talking with Theo on Outta the Park, for 53 minutes, I came away with a wholly new perspective on my past.

Trauma is something that I’ve had to deal with, and I’ll guess most of us have, in various degrees.

Theo talked of struggle being a gift.

The struggles we’ve had to endure are the things that shape us as a person.

Its no wonder that some of those from at risk-backgrounds seek out social work as employment.  They can relate to the plight of at-risk youth and want to help and guide using the coping mechanisms they’ve discovered.

On each Midweek show, I have a segment called “A Pause For Thought”. When I’m coming up with ideas on what to talk about, I’m almost always drawing from personal experience.  Without struggle, I think I’d be as deep as a puddle.

Circling back, to hear a grown man say that he’d change nothing about a past that was so filled with darkness that light wasn’t a word he was capable of spelling, filled me with strength.

Theo believes he was put here to help.  Not play hockey.  Not be a famous athlete.  Those circumstances were incidental.

To hear someone brush aside accomplishments like winning a gold medal for Team Canada, in favour of walking someone through the steps necessary to begin to love themselves is humbling.

To know that he’s being genuine is awe-inspiring.

Maybe I was meant to get involved with Outta The Park so I could hear, first hand, that healing is possible.

I was talking with my wife, at length, about how demonstrations of emotional strength give strength to those suffering.

I hear Theo’s story and because he persevered, I feel like I can withstand a little more of what life throws my way.

I guess this is me saying thanks.

Because you didn’t pull the trigger, Theo, it gives others the strength to put the gun down or throw it in the desert.

The goal should be to have a peakless pile of guns sitting in the desert, shouldn’t it?

That pile starts with one….

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