My Least Favorite Hawk – Theo Fleury

This one comes to us from longtime guy and fellow Scouser Christopher Rhodes, better known on Twitter @HolidayRhodes. 

I love Theo Fleury. The first jersey I ever owned with a name on the back was a Flames Fleury jersey I got at Champs Sports for 40 bucks in 1994. I still have it and wear it with pride.

I was five foot nothing and barely 90 pounds as a high school freshman. Trying to earn a starting position on my high school soccer team over a guy who was six foot, fast as fuck, and had more hair on his balls than I did on my entire body, Theo Fleury was my idol. I styled my game after him. I played with a reckless abandon that not only saw me cleat the 1996 Parade Magazine National Player of the Year in the ankle and almost ruin his season, but also got my coaches attention with my hustle, determination, and “fuck you, I’ll do whatever it takes” attitude.  Fleury showed me that no matter what size you were you could make some noise if you played bigger than you were.

So in 2002 when the Hawks signed Theo I was beyond excited. I couldn’t wait to watch one of my favorite players in a Hawks jersey. We were coming off the best season we’d had in a while (meaning we made the playoffs) and I was sure that Theo would add that extra little something to the lineup. I wore my Theo Flames jersey to games all year. And early on, while Theo wasn’t blowing up the world, he wasn’t horrible. I couldn’t place my finger on what was wrong, but it just seemed that there where a shitload of games where he just wasn’t “there”. It got worse as the season wore on.

Then he disappeared. He wasn’t in the lineup and there was no news about him and the Hawks went from being a team fighting for a playoff spot to a team that didn’t win a game for almost a month. I didn’t get it.  I thought Theo hated Chicago.  I thought he hated his teammates (it’s not hard to hate Karpotsev, right Pat Foley?), I thought he lost his fight. I was completely disillusioned. I thought it had everything to do with the people around him. Not him. It couldn’t be him. Legends just don’t fade away.  They don’t stop caring. They don’t play 8 minutes and take stupid penalties. It was Calder’s fault and Mironov’s fault and VandenBussche’s fucking fault. It could have been Steve McCarthy’s fault because my sister loved him and fuck him.  But not Theo. No way.

The guy I fashioned my entire soccer career after, who showed me that you didn’t need to have hair on your balls to start at left midfield on a team that went 18-1-2, that guy didn’t show up anymore. He played like an asshole and I hated him for it. Had I known that he had drug problems I could have said, “Well, shit I got really into smoking dope and didn’t even play my senior year, so I get it”. But that’s not what your heroes do. They don’t melt down, they rise up.  They overcome the petty ass shit that brings us everyday folk down. When they play on a team that’ s.500 they don’t disappear in a crack den, they score great goals and take you on a playoff run. They make it so you wear their jersey with pride.

Instead, I stopped wearing my Fleury jersey.  It hid in the back of my closet, ashamed of the shitshow that was his time in Chicago. He broke my heart. My guy was a Hawk and he sucked and so did the Hawks. After that season Theo retired and faded away into obscurity. After that season I went away to college and my family stopped paying for season tickets for a team that constantly lost 4-0 and was getting outdrawn by the goddamn Wolves (we re-upped in 2008). I still watched games on my 13 inch TV at WIU, but with as much conviction as Theo had played with.

Learning that Theo was a hopeless drug addict while he was in Chicago is like going on Maury and learning that the 26th guy you paternity test is the father. It explains shit, but doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t erase the fact that I watched one of my all time favorite players disintegrate in front of my eyes. Had he stayed a Ranger and melted down, fine, no skin off my ass. But to don the jersey of another team and go to Hawks games and wear that jersey with pride while your favorite player slashes someone across the knees and gets tossed out of the game as all 3,000 people in attendance are booing him…

That’s why Theo is my least favorite Hawk.

  • The Nutbrown Hare

    Entertaining read, though I’m not sure being sexually assaulted hundreds of times by Graham James would necessarily qualify as the sort of “petty ass shit” most everyday folk overcome.

    • YoAdrienne

      Yeah, he has had an awful lot of demons to battle in his life, most of
      them not really of his own doing. It sounds like he managed to get his
      act together, and that all makes it easier to look past any of his
      “petty ass shit.” I hope the rest of his life goes better than the
      early stuff, because he sure had things stacked against him from the start.

      • Rhodes

        I think what’s kind of getting misconstrued here is the fact that I am really glad that he has turned his life around and I don’t really hold anything against him. I guess I could have made that clearer. From what I’ve seen he is doing motivational speaking now and has his life on a great track which I couldn’t be happier about. If you remember a few years back he played in preseason with the Flames and got standing ovations and at one point he scored a shootout goal. The crowd went apeshit and it definitely brought a tear to my eye. In no way am I trying to imply that he didn’t have demons to face that I can’t possibly comprehend. My whole point was that he was my least favorite Hawk because his time here was such a mess regardless of the circumstances that it was hard to watch him struggle so bad. Especially since at the time we didn’t know what he was dealing with.

        • YoAdrienne

          I wasn’t commenting on what you wrote. Just on Fleury, in general. But, I certainly get your point. Stan Mikita was and will always be my favorite Hawk, but I’m sure I’d feel the same way had he messed things up that way, too.

  • Rhodes

    That was more of a blanket statement about people in general, and yeah, I guess I could’ve clarified better. He most definitely went through some horrific stuff. Thanks for making me look the asshole.

    • The Nutbrown Hare

      Ah, my comment was delivered with an asshole-y tone, too…I’m good at that.

      To be honest, I actually felt the exact same way about Fleury back in 2002, prior to the extent of his demons being brought to light. I held him and the whole Columbus strip joint saga responsible for that team’s implosion. Ugh, those were dark, dark days in Hawk history.

  • I get it. Dashed hopes, and hopes were high for a bit of a model, a guy you’d admired. But man, the facts of this guy’s career are hardly believable–to be that size in that “era” and play that style, and to add in years and years of abuse and addiction underneath it all … it’s basically a miracle that he played a single game as a pro, let alone had a truly elite-level career.

    But this is also one of the reasons I’m really enjoying this series … these choices aren’t rooted in rationality–a least favourite can be least for whatever reason you want. Thanks.

    • Brain Sprain

      Well said.

  • Joe Banks

    Theo Fleury… wasn’t there an incident at a Columbus strip club?

  • jordyhawk

    How about opening this up to both guys we most hate and guys we most like (preferably the likes would not be drawn from the A listers). Mix it up. Yin and yang. Moose and squirrel.

    • Joe Banks

      Agreed. The thing about the least favorite Hawk is, it’s so damn negative… hell, we’re even ripping on the departed (Probert).
      I’d prefer something more positive.

      • Jr Rein

        Besides some positive reader comments, and the morning links section, most of what I have read by the bloggers on this website is very negative.

  • Brain Sprain

    Well written. Lots of pain all around. We all know what happened to Theo and this isn’t the article about that. Not really even about Theo. At all. It’s about the pain kids feel when they try and see themselves in their sports idol. To watch them burn out hard leaves scars that are disproportionate top what they should be. Its because kids have big hearts.

    I had it similar with Dave Manson when i we a kid. How could Manson, a guy that returned to the ice because he wouldn’t stand by and watch Savy get in a fight by himself, let me down with his DUI?

  • Stockroom Snail

    Can anybody put a better “past their prime” team than the ‘hawks organization? I mean it spans decades….

  • Chris K.

    Thanks for making me laugh by reminding of absolute turds in Boris Mironov and Steve McCarthy. That’s what makes the current team all the more amazing considering how fucking awful the Hawks were for such a long time.