Theo Fleury talks to inmates at Her Majesty's Penitentiary
Legendary hockey player and published author Theo Fleury detoured from the usual book launch hot spots to make a stop inside Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's Monday.
Fleury spent two hours inside the Victorian-era jail, speaking directly to inmates about his battle with addictions and memories of sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a former coach.
"From the ages of 14 to 16, I was raped over 150 times by a coach of mine and you know that sort of set me on this path of addictions, anger, bad behaviour," Fleury told the inmates.
Those stories of horrific abuse — and how he overcame it — are outlined in his new book called Conversations with a Rattlesnake.
Co-written by Fleury's therapist and friend, Kim Barthel, the book talks about his struggles and healing from trauma and abuse.
Fleury played fifteen years on NHL ice with The Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, the New York Rangers and the Chicago Black Hawks.
He won the Stanley Cup in 1989 and an Olympic gold medal in 2002.
Without hockey, I would be sitting right beside you right now- Theo Fleury
"I wanted to reach out to guys like yourself because I know we share a lot in common," Fleury told the group of men, "Because without hockey, I would be sitting right beside you right now, that's where my life would have ended up."
25 books donated
The former NHL star said he kept his emotions bottled up inside, but has since learned to speak about his feelings.
"I believe that every single issue that we have in society starts with trauma and then you pick your poison as to how you're going to deal with this trauma for the rest of your life," he said.
"We hope today that when we leave, that we leave you with a message of hope, that you can change the way you look at the world, see the world, and how you can change."
Following Fleury's discussion, the men jumped to their feet, applauding him for taking the time to speak to him.
HMP was the first jail Fleury has ever visited; he hopes to make similar visits at other correctional institutions.
Fleury often gets paid for speaking engagements, but CBC News was told he did not accept any money for Monday's talk.
Twenty-five books have been donated to the jail, and they hope to make an audio version available as well.
With files from Jane Adey