Originally created 02/09/02

Fleury's emotions in check?



Theo Fleury's emotional explosions are being overlooked by his Canadian Olympic teammates, partly because no one knows exactly what's going on and partly because Fleury can still play.

The New York Rangers forward has admitted to nagging but unspecified "personal problems" this season, saying they are unrelated to his previous battle with substance abuse.

This season, he has - among other things - made a vulgar gesture at New York Islanders fans, punched a mascot and, most recently, got in a war of words with U.S. Olympic captain Chris Chelios in Detroit.

Steve Yzerman, Detroit's captain and a two-time Canadian Olympian, was asked if he's worried about Fleury going into the Games.

"Not really," he said. "You know, Theo - controversial is not the right word, but he's been the center of attention for a lot of different reasons over the course of his career. I don't think that it necessarily affects his play.

"I don't really know what's going on off ice with him," he added. "He's played pretty well this year, I know that."

Yzerman thinks Fleury could be aided by the lack of distractions in the Olympic Village.

"It's a 10-day stretch of six games where you're playing hockey," Yzerman said. "You don't have a lot of time for other things. No, it's not a concern. I'm assuming he'll be there ready to play."

Wayne Gretzky, Team Canada's executive director, also gave Fleury a vote of confidence.

"I still believe that Theo is going to be a big part of the success of this team," Gretzky said at the All-Star game last Saturday, before Fleury's latest incident.

During Detroit's 3-1 win over New York on Wednesday, Fleury was insulted by something Chelios said, calling it "very, very personal."

He threatened to call the league the next day, but as of early evening Thursday, he had not.

Chelios felt Fleury was overreacting, saying Fleury is "bringing this upon himself."

NHL spokesman Frank Brown said it's unlikely Chelios would be reprimanded unless a referee or linesman could verify he was out of line.

"Absent that, it's almost impossible to settle a 'he-said, she-said,"' Brown said.

The league is vigilant about punishing racial slurs, but if Fleury is complaining pokes at his substance abuse problem, he might not find a sympathetic ear.

Against the Islanders in January, Fleury made an obscene gesture to fans, one of whom was wearing a No. 14 jersey with "Crackhead" on the back.

Fleury, who claimed he never used crack cocaine, said the fans had crossed the line, but the league determined it was Fleury who deserved a $1,000 fine.