NHL Star Theo Fleury Discusses His Documentary About Surviving Child Sex Abuse and Helping Others
Brawling and scoring and, most important, winning, Theo Fleury was a terror on the ice for teams like the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers.
“From an early age, I had a dream to someday be a National Hockey League player,” the Saskatchewan native says. “And that came to fruition. I played 1,000 games in the NHL, had 1,000 points, won a Stanley Cup and an Olympic Gold medal, was a seven-time all-star.”
And after the games, he’d bring that same intensity to the bars and casinos, his addictions spinning out of control. All because of a secret from his past.
In 2009, after officially retiring from professional hockey, Fleury revealed in his autobiography “Playing with Fire” how his junior league coach Graham James sexually abused him. “I was raped 150 times by a coach of mine,” he tells Made in Hollywood.
Going public helped bring peace and healing, and the book became a best-seller. But when James got a two-year prison term after pleading guilty to abusing Fleury, now 47, and another player, Fleury knew he had to do more than speak out.
A new documentary “Victor Walk,” which premiered at the Dances with Films festival in Los Angeles this month, follows Fleury as he makes a 10-day 400-mile trek on foot from Toronto to Ottawa. “I really just wanted to go for a walk,” he says in the film, “(to) bring awareness to this subject, hopefully empower other people to come forward and to tell their truth.”
Both heartbreaking and uplifting, “Victor Walk” proves that Fleury accomplished all that and more as he encounters people across Canada baring their stories and their pain to the least-likely of people: a sports hero. After winning the Audience Award for documentaries, a distribution deal is only a matter of time.
“You get to feel like you’re on the walk,” says director Michael David Lynch, who shot most of the movie while walking backwards with the camera. “Hearing those stories is what kept us going, gave us the fuel. When you realize how much you’re helping them, that’s what kept us going.”
Although the destination of the walk — the country’s capital — relates to Fleury’s crusade to toughen child abuse laws in Canada, the experience underscores his theme that victims of trauma — any trauma — are not alone and not locked into their dark places the way he had been for so long.
“There’s always a way out,” he says. “It depends upon how vulnerable you want to be.”
Watch the “Victor Walk” trailer below: