Some of you may not know who Theo Fleury is. For most of his life, Theo Fleury was a hockey player. He scored 455 goals and had 1,088 points over a decorated and often interesting NHL career that spanned nearly 15 years. He was told early in his career that while he was talented, he could never survive the NHL because of his height. In the eyes of the NHL brass, at 5 foot 6, Theo Fleury was just not big enough to make an impact; but what they didn’t factor in, was his heart.
I have always been drawn to the underdog or those who have fought adversity to carve their path in life. My first hockey hero was the great Mario Lemieux. His courage and determination to be one of the greatest players in the NHL despite repeated health ailments always had me in awe of his God-given talent. While Mario was my hockey hero, Theo Fleury was my hockey “guilty pleasure.” Mario and Theo could not be any more different a player on the ice. Mario was a giant and made the game look so graceful and almost easy. Mario’s talent came naturally and the game just seemed to come to him. Theo had to work hard for his ice time and always played with that chip on his shoulder that made him relentless. Theo went after the game hard with fire and intensity, he had to work for his ice time. While completely different players on the ice, their stories of adversity off of the ice drew me to both of these hockey players.
Then I heard about Theo’s first book, “Playing With Fire“.
It was the summer of 2009, and my life was crumbling all around me. I had had enough with the secrets, I was a new father of a toddler son, and I knew I couldn’t be a dad with the baggage I was carrying. It was early July when I called my wife home from work and finally told her of my sexual abuse as a child at the hands of my father. While the secrets were out, the healing was just beginning. I had felt a million times lighter now that the secret was out, but I felt a million times lonelier.
Where do I even start to heal?
For the rest of the summer, I just hid. I avoided family, friends and anyone else who knew my father. My relationship with my father was very close, and we shared a lot of the same friends. I didn’t have a plan, I just winged it as I went along. Opting to just avoid the subject and skirt around any references to my now alienated relationship with my abuser. The guilt started to pile up, and my will to continue on this very infantile path to healing was beginning to crumble, that was until late September.
Theo Fleury announced he was retiring from hockey to promote his new book, “Playing With Fire”.
At the time he announced to the world about his real relationship with a former hockey coach this coach had already been charged with many other charges of sexual abuse stemming from incidents with former players who played for him. During that time there were whispers about Theo’s early junior hockey career intersecting with this sick man, and now Theo had the courage to confirm that he was also one of the victims. The book was a tell-all story aimed at finding peace from a tormented past.
I was floored by the news.
As if by some kind of divine intervention, here is one of my hockey heroes sharing the same path in life as me. Sure, our paths are in completely different worlds, but the commonality of breaking free from abusive hands of a narcissistic man who held so much power over our lives was unmistakenly similar.
I was no longer alone.
Once I had the book in my hand, I could not put it down. While Theo’s life stories in the book were very much different than mine, I still could relate to just how he felt as he tried his best to escape the memory demons of abuse. Now, the very way he played the game is how he healed from his trauma. With my hockey hero’s story in my hand, I could now find something I could rally around, a glimmer of hope that if he can do it, so can I.
Don’t quit before the miracle.
It wasn’t long after the book was released that I got to meet Theo after an alumni hockey game he played in Moncton, NB. I was honored to have him sign my book, and in it he wrote: “Don’t quit before the miracle.” This little phrase instantly became my motto as I battled every day, trying to find the reason for my life and the constant struggle to reveal the truth. While I had some very dark days, I never lost sight of why I came forward, my miracle was yet to happen.
An ambassador of healing.
I always kept tabs on what Theo was up to in the public eye. It was a few years after my meeting him that I noticed that he was involved in something called a Victor Walk. The Victor Walk is an awareness walk that happens every July in support of those who suffer from the shadows of childhood trauma. It is also an awareness campaign, aimed at bringing awareness not only to those who suffer in that they are not alone but to bring awareness of just how prevalent childhood trauma is. In 2016, I joined the Victor Walk and organized my very own walk in my hometown of Moncton, NB. I was so proud to be able to give back to Theo’s mission of healing but also to show the world that victims can become victors over their past.
I didn’t quit.
Thank you, Theo! Through your example, the inspiration of relentless search for healing, I have been able to find the courage get past my demons, raise a young son, become a better person, perform a TEDx talk and write my own book “The Roaming Mind.” My Miracle has happened, I didn’t quit.