Recently retired and ex-Ranger Theo Fleury had one word to describe his time in New York from 1999-2002: Nightmare. Now, don’t think he’s just talking about his well-publicized nights of:
all night drinking, doing cocaine, going “below the streets of New York City” to “party with freaks, transvestites, strippers” or to “hang out with homeless guys around a burn barrel” on the West Side piers.
He’s also referring to his playing time as well, referring to the Rangers as an “army of mercenaries, all about the money”. This accusation shouldn’t surprise anyone, as it’s fairly accurate. The Rangers were well known for being the team with the highest salary and the worst results, never qualifying for the playoffs despite the payroll.
Some of his accusations though, are surprising, especially when it comes to Brian Leetch:
“Leetch did not recognize how much talent was on our team” and “if he could have seen it, he might have been able to bring the team together.”
That particular quote isn’t going to sit well with Ranger fans. It’s tough, and unfair, to pin the failures of that period on Leetch. The Rangers were exactly what Fleury said, mercenaries, save for a few people. Leetch was always a quiet captain that led by example. Mercenaries don’t want to be led. They want to get their paycheck and that’s it. If you don’t want to be led, then no one can lead you. It’s as simple as that.
Fleury also took some shots at Messier, but his shots are a bit more consistent with some Ranger fans feelings during that time, specifically that Messier shouldn’t have been getting first line minutes. Fleury later withdraws some of his criticism of the Ranger idols:
But Fleury said he included those characterizations to show “how my illness was distorting my perception. Leetch, he said, was a “phenomenal player” who “led by example.” Of Messier, he said: “You know what? Mark Messier has six championships, so I’m not going to question anything he does.”
It is quite amazing how substances can affect your feelings towards a person. It is good to see that Fleury recognized his addiction, sought help, and has been clean for 1,500 days. Some of these quotes are going to anger people in the Ranger community. But you know what, aside from the Leetch comments, his views on his time with the Rangers, or on the city itself, don’t really phase me. I enjoyed watching Fleury on the ice. I loved watching him flip off all of Nassau Coliseum. As for the person, it is good to see that he got better.