National Hockey League Conference Call New York Rangers Forward Theoren Fleury November 8, 2000
DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department. I'd like to welcome you to today's conference call. Our guest is New York Rangers forward Theoren Fleury. Thanks to Theoren for taking the time today to answer your questions. Thanks to Jason Vogel and John Rosasco of the Rangers public relations department for arranging the call. Heading into tomorrow night's came with the Capitals in Washington, the Rangers have a record of 7-7-0-0 for 14 points, tied for third in the Atlantic Division. In his 13th National Hockey League season and second with the Rangers, Theoren is off to the fastest start of his career with 11 goals and eight assists for 19 points in 14 games played. This ties him for seventh in overall League scoring. His 11 goals tie him for second in the League with Edmonton Oilers' Bill Guerin, trailing only Scott Young of St. Louis who has 13. This past Monday, he was named National Hockey League Player of the Week for the week ending November 5, after scoring five goals and one assist for six points in three games. On Saturday November 4, he became the 60th player in National Hockey League history to reach the 400-goal plateau when he scored against Montreal in a Rangers 5-2 victory. Again, we thank him for taking the time to join us today.
Q. I was wondering what your reaction is to the news that Wayne Gretzky will run the Canadian Olympic team, from what I understand, with Kevin Lowe, and with Pat Quinn as head coach. What is your feeling about that? THEOREN FLEURY: I think it is exciting news for Canadian hockey. Obviously, Wayne, through his years as a player, has gained a lot of experience and has played on a lot of winning teams. And obviously, he has a good feel for the players in the League that he'll want to represent Canada at the next Olympics.
Q. Are you looking forward to being on that team? Do you think you'll be on it? THEOREN FLEURY: There's no greater honor than to play for your country. If things continue to go well, yeah, I'd love to get the opportunity to once again represent my country.
Q. How do you think Wayne will do? I mean, he has never been a general manager. Do you feel that with just the experience he's had as a player he can get the job done? THEOREN FLEURY: Yeah, absolutely. He's going to surround himself with some good people. And, like I said, he's going to be on the ownership side, as well. That gives you, I guess, a good idea of all of the players that are available to him, and obviously once the team is picked, it is up to the players to go out and perform.
Q. Do you think Nagano was as disastrous as a lot of people thought? I think the perception is that, for those of us that were over there, that it was a great hockey tournament, even given the fact that Canada didn't win a medal. But you come back to Canada afterwards and it is such a negative feeling on the result; everybody focused on the process. What is your sort of memory of the entire Nagano experience? THEOREN FLEURY: I guess I can only speak for myself and say that it was one of the highlights of my hockey career. Obviously, we lost in a shoot-out, and I've said this many times before, you could have thrown a Scrabble board out in the rink and had two guys play Scrabble. That's what it basically comes down to. It is a team sport, and why they settle such an important game with an individual skills competition, I think it wasn't the right way to do it. Obviously, if there was any more time left in that game ? I think that we had a lot of momentum, and eventually, we probably would have prevailed in an overtime situation like sudden death. So, it was unfortunate for us to go against probably the best breakaway goalie the game has ever seen. It seemed that the Czechs were playing that way to get to the shoot-out to let Dominick win the game for them.
Q. Just sort of turning to your own personal renaissance, when things were going poorly, were there think health issues that complicated things for you on the ice? THEOREN FLEURY: No, not really. I do have Crohn's disease, and it is something that -- on a day-to-day basis, you have to deal with a certain way, but that wasn't the case. It was just a case where I think I lost my confidence early on in the season. And I must have hit probably 30 goal posts; you know, if 15 of those go in, it's a pretty good season for me. But, coming into this season, I'm a lot more prepared for what New York is all about and feel a lot more comfortable here. The coaching staff and everybody has given me great support this year and things have gotten off well.
Q. Are you shooting more? It looks to me that you are. I haven't checked the stats to see if you have more shots on goal than last year. But it seemed like last year in the highlights you were constantly dishing off and your game is -- THEOREN FLEURY: Actually, I think that I have fewer shots this year.
Q. Really? THEOREN FLEURY: My shooting percentage is as high as it has ever been. I'm a lot more patient, a lot more confident, not squeezing the stick like I did last year. I had a couple goals early on in the season, and they were pretty lucky shots that would not have went in last year. Now they are going in, and I just really got a lot of confidence from that. I've been playing in a lot of situations this year where, I'm put in that situation where I get the puck and get spots and have great opportunities on the net.
Q. Now, you've established over your career that you can put the puck in the net. There's another part of your game, the guys you play against know better than anybody. I guess the term is, "Love to have him on your team, hate to play against him." To what extent do you enjoy that label? THEOREN FLEURY: Well, the biggest obstacle I've had to overcome is my size. From early on even when I played in Moose Jaw, I had to play a certain style of game in order to get room out on the ice. It is obvious that the way the teams draft players and whatnot nowadays, they like the big guys, and obviously, when you're a smaller guy, you definitely have to make room for yourself and show that you are not going to be intimidated out on the ice. So it is a style that I've always played, and I think it is a big part of the reason why I've had so much success in the League is because I play that style.
Q. Has your game changed at all since you were out here in that Moose Jaw area? THEOREN FLEURY: I don't think so. Obviously, I'm a lot more mature than I was when I was playing there. I've tried to become like a real complete player. And you want, as a player, you want to play in every situation. And over the course of time, I've been able to do that, like killing a penalty and regular shift as well. And late in the games when you need to defend one goalie, you want the coach to be able to look down on the bench and look at you and say that this guy is going to do the job and help us win the game.
Q. Nothing against the guys that have won it, obviously you have some great company, Theoren, but safe to say that you'll probably never be voted for the Lady Byng? THEOREN FLEURY: I don't think so. Maybe as I get older, yeah, maybe. But there's no secret that I have to play a certain way in order to be successful.
Q. Just wanted to ask you, Mark Messier, what difference has he made to the start that you've had this season? THEOREN FLEURY: He brings a huge amount of leadership to our team. He is a guy that has really thrived in a situation that New York provides, as it is a tough place to play. They expect you to win here, and he just brought a real common influence to the dressing room. It's an always team first attitude, and our team is playing as well as it has played since I've been here. We have a real good thing going right now. Hope we continue to do that.
Q. Did you ever think back in your days in Moose Jaw that you would ever hit the 400-goal plateau? THEOREN FLEURY: Not really. I guess when you come out of junior, you just want to be a solid National Hockey League player, and for me, I had the opportunity to play with some really great players along the way that have helped me. And so, it's a great thing and something that I never thought that I would accomplish. But on the other side of the coin, a couple years into my career, things really started to go well for me offensively, and you just gain confidence from that.
Q. Last night at the Civic Center they retired Mike Keane's jersey. Your thoughts on that? THEOREN FLEURY: I think it's great. Obviously, Mike's was a huge part of the team in Moose Jaw, and obviously is a huge part of every team he's played on in his NHL career. He's won three Stanley Cups with three different teams. I think the way that he played in Moose Jaw was a great example of, if you're a guy that is not drafted that you could still make it to the NHL and be an impact player.
Q. Brian Leetch this year, and with the addition of Mark coming into the room, obviously last night was a big game for Brian and it seems that he's playing with a little bit more life. What's your take on his play this year? THEOREN FLEURY: He's definitely turned his game around. He was hurt last year for most of the season, and it really hurt our hockey club not having him in the lineup. He's been a huge part of the success of the team early on. And obviously, you know, with Mark coming in here, he doesn't have to worry about being the captain, and he can just go out and play, which he has, and played very well.
Q. Along those lines, is that something that a lot of people don't look at when they see Brian? He played a lot last year, but a lot of times he played hurt. Is that a quality that doesn't always get seen with him? THEOREN FLEURY: Yeah. Absolutely. The guy has a high threshold for pain, and he's a very competitive guy and he wants to win. He would definitely get my vote for the Norris Trophy if it were voted on today.
Q. I know that you had a stop in between there, but Calgary to New York, how has that transition been for and you how much of a culture shock? THEOREN FLEURY: Well, I think it has been harder on my family than anything else. I think we've moved four times in about 18 months. I have two small children, so not only for them, but for me too, but it is a big adjustment to move that many times in such a short period of time. Obviously, I played in Calgary my whole career, and we were really comfortable there. We had lots of friends and family in Calgary. We basically moved out here and all of those people are out of our lives. So, it was a difficult transition. But, this year, I feel a lot more comfortable in New York, and really know how things work around here now.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about the hockey environment there compared to Calgary, the media and everything? Everything is so much greater out there. Was it tough last year for you dealing with that, considering you struggled a bit? THEOREN FLEURY: Obviously, I think coming in here the expectations were as high as they have ever been in my career, and when things don't go well and you sign a big contract, especially in New York, people expect you to produce, and I didn't do that. Not only were the fans and media disappointed, but I was just as disappointed myself. I wanted to come in here and continue to play the way that I always have. But last year, that is the past and I've obviously moved on and looking forward to the rest of this season.