Theo Fleury is living for today. And that's all he can do. After suffering through substance abuse problems in the past, the diminutive right wing's decision to enter the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program back in February forced him to face the ghosts that have haunted him for a long time.
Speaking to a group of media at his annual golf tournament to benefit Crohn's Disease (which he suffers from) and Colitis at Pine Brook Country Club in Calgary, Alberta, Fleury broke a five-month silence and discussed his progress and the serious issues that has begun to overcome.
"I don't think about the past anymore ... today is all I have," Fleury stated. "I can't do this alone. For a long time, especially when you're young, you feel like you're invincible and there's nothing you can't handle. And I'm the type of guy that doesn't like to aks for help. But I've done that now. And because of doing that, my life has changed for the better."
Prior to making the decision to leave the team and enter the program, the 13-year NHL veteran was among the league's scoring leaders with 30 goals and 44 assists. But on February 27, Fleury finally realized that the game of hockey is just that ... a game. He spent three months of in-patient therapy in a Southern California treatment center before relocating to New Mexico to spend the majority of the summer months with his substance abuse sponsor.
"It just came to the point I knew I couldn't do this alone anymore," he added. "I felt it was time to deal with some issues I needed to deal with. I'm a human being just like everybody else and I have problems like anybody else."
Armed with a new direction and the support of his close friends and family, Fleury is looking forward to getting back to a place where he is most comfortable ... on the ice.
"I guess the hockey rink has always been my happy place - the place where I felt really comfortable and felt I've gotten a lot of things that I didn't get when I was off the ice," said the Western Canadian native. "I don't think I've ever felt better physically than I do right now. "It was never ever a thought in my mind that I wouldn't come back (to play this season). I will still be the same player I've always been and I'm looking forward to returning to Calgary for Team Canada's camp (in September)."
Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather and former Calgary Flames and current Hartford Wolf Pack GM Al Coates sat by Fleury and offered their support while he discussed his lengthy battle. I'm proud of what he did," noted Sather. "It was difficult for Theo to do what he did, and it's nice to be able to say the club will be there to help him, because we will. But in the end, he's got to be the one to help himself."
Fleury's biggest battle is definitely ahead of him. He knows it won't be easy. Then again, very little has ever come easy for him.
"I have to change a lot of things and I have already. I hope through this whole process somebody else will see where I've gone and see where I'm going and use it (as an inspiration) in their life."