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Bill Clement
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Wednesday, March 7, 2001
A loss for the Rangers, a bigger struggle for Fleury

There have been whispers around the NHL for some time regarding Theo Fleury and possible problems with substance abuse. It's been one big, unsubstantiated rumor until now. I'm happy that he has at last come clean and gone public with his situation. The timing of this announcement could possibly be a signal that the Rangers finally realize they're out of the playoff race. Whether that's the case or not, there's never a bad time to enter a substance abuse program.

As far as the playoffs go, the Rangers were probably done anyway, so losing Theo for the rest of the season isn't going to cause them to miss the playoffs. It would have been akin to climbing Mount Everest without oxygen tanks for the Rangers to get that eighth spot in the East. Regardless, it's a tremendous blow for the organization and will be a struggle for Theo, personally.

This is a problem that has been extremely isolated in hockey. In general, hockey players are far more conservative as people and citizens than athletes in other sports. But, when cases do crop up, it's important to have a system in place to deal with it. The only way to begin to address these issues is to acknowledge them personally. Theo has finally done that and, hopefully, is on his way to overcoming this problem.

Bill Clement is a hockey analyst for ESPN. He played 11 seasons in the NHL as a center and won two Stanley Cups with the Philadelphia Flyers.

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