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'I don't think about the past anymore,' Fleury says

CALGARY, Alberta -- Theo Fleury hasn't solved all of his
problems, but the NHL All-Star thinks he's getting better following
months of treatment for substance abuse.

"I don't think about the past anymore ... today is all I
have," the New York Rangers right wing said Monday.

The 33-year-old player was enjoying a fine season with the New
York Rangers when he surprised the hockey world in February by
checking into rehab for an undisclosed problem.

At the time, Fleury was New York's leading scorer with 30 goals
and 44 assists, challenging Joe Sakic for the NHL scoring lead.

That was a turnaround from the 1999-00 season -- his first with
the Rangers -- when he only managed 15 goals and 49 assists after
signing a lucrative free-agent contract.

"I had these issues long before I went to New York," he said.
"I'm a prairie kid and I grew up in a town of 1,500 people. I felt
like I was dropped in Manhattan and left to fend on my own. I'm not
very good at asking for help or directions, but now I feel I'm a
lot better at that then in the past."

Fleury, a fan favorite because of his huge heart and 5-foot-6
stature, has struggled for years with substance abuse -- both his
parents had addiction problems.

He spoke before his annual golf tournament, which raises money
for research into Crohn's Disease, a debilitating digestive
disorder that plagues him.

"I always felt joy, I always felt happiness, I always felt
complete when I was on the ice," said Fleury, who played 10
seasons with the Calgary Flames before a brief stint with the
Colorado Avalanche and then the Rangers.

The veteran of 13 NHL seasons said Monday, in his first public
comments since February, that he was always able to keep his on-ice
performance separate from his off-ice troubles.

"The hockey rink has always been my happy place and my place
where I felt really comfortable," Fleury said. "I got a lot of
things I didn't get (off the ice)."

That changed one night late in February. And while Fleury won't
discuss the details under doctor's orders, he knew he reached a
point where he needed help. He turned to an addictions program
recently established by the NHL and its players' association.

Rangers general manager Glen Sather is proud of what Fleury has
accomplished, but says the real challenge is just beginning.

"This is not something where you spend four or five months
changing your lifestyle," said Sather, who sat with Fleury on
Monday.

"He's going to have to fight until someone sticks him in the
ground 50 years from now."

Fleury says he's never felt better physically and is looking
forward to being back on the ice -- whether that's at the Rangers'
training camp or with the 33 other players invited by friend Wayne
Gretzky to the early September orientation camp for the Canadian
Olympic team.

"There was never a thought in my mind that I would not come
back," Fleury said. "I basically have the tools to deal with situations that used
to perplex me. I'm really going to concentrate on playing hockey."