Theo Fleury making 'hockey tonk' debut

Theo Fleury has always worn his heart on his sleeve. For 10 seasons and 791 games, he did it as the sparkplug forward for the Calgary Flames.

He’s always been entertaining. Witness some of his famous moments on YouTube. And -- even better -- some of his infamous moments.

Now he’s entertaining in Calgary again -- in the Saddledome, the site of some of his greatest goals, hits and fights. But the 44-year-old has turned in his skates and stick for a guitar and microphone.

The No. 14 sweater has been traded in for a cowboy shirt and a budding country music career. Yes, Theo Fleury is a country singer.

“It will be different,” he said about returning to the Saddledome with the ice covered by a floor and stage. “I’m excited for the opportunity. I take it very seriously. It hasn’t happened overnight. I’ve gotten to work with some very talented people in the music industry. This is where it led to.”

The second career has led back to the Saddledome, where the annual Calgary Stampede rodeo is taking place. Fleury’s big gig is opening for country star Johnny Reid on Friday.

His “hockey tonk” music is no joke. So like Johnny Cash -- one of his idols -- Fleury continues living with his heart on his sleeve.

Songs like “As the Story Goes” were clearly influenced by some of his musical heroes and his troubled past. Fleury does not shy from tough subjects, as he wrote in his book “Playing with Fire.” The memoir included acknowledgement of sexual abuse during his junior hockey years and his struggles with drug addiction.

Reminiscent of Cash, he pours some of feelings out with his lyrics and guitar.

“When I sat down to write that book, I had no idea what I was getting into with the (discussion of) sexual abuse and addiction,” he said. “I didn’t realize the majority of people struggle with something in their life. If I can inspire people to get help, that is great.”