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Sunday, November 11, 2012
Theo Fleury: I have no sympathy for owners

By Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun



TORONTO -- Former star winger Theo Fleury didn’t hold back when asked about the NHL lockout.

He’s still a player at heart, even though he’s not like today’s player.

"The game has changed," Fleury said Sunday at the HHOF Legends game at Air Canada Centre. "There’s a lot more money on the table. I think the players are a lot more business-orientated than we ever were. I was the guy that always said, 'Drop the puck, let’s play hockey.' But here’s how I see it: I do a lot of events all across Canada and I run into guys like Gordie Howe and Johnny Bower, who are still doing events. And I say, 'Why are you guys here?' They need to be there to make money. So I have no sympathy for the owners because of that. Because those are the icons of the game, the guys that I looked up to and wanted to emulate myself after. I’m fully behind the players and what they’re trying to accomplish."

Gary Roberts, a former teammate of Fleury’s in Calgary, now runs a successful business in the Toronto area as a high-end trainer for NHLers and young prospects. He’s working with 60-goal man Steven Stamkos right now during the lockout.

"I’m involved with current players that I train, they’re not different than us years ago, they want to play," said Roberts. "It’s discouraging for sure for hockey fans. I’m a hockey fan. I want to see hockey being played. Hopefully, they can find a happy medium and all get back to work and move on."

The lockout didn’t damper Sunday’s Legends game where the Air Canada Centre was buzzing to see former stars on the ice.

"It’s a great celebration of our game," said Fleury. "I honestly believe that I played in the greatest era of superstars and great hockey players and great people. So to be asked to be here to be part of it is a great thrill. It’s nice to see people who appreciated the way we played the game."

Lockout irony hits Sundin

An NHL lockout in 1994-95 made Mats Sundin wait six-plus months after his June 1994 trade before finally making his Toronto Maple Leafs debut in January 1995.

That his Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend is book-ended by another lockout isn’t lost on him in terms of being ironic.

"It is, yes," Sundin said Sunday at Air Canada Centre. "But you know what, you can’t control those things. Everyone wants the season to start, myself included as a hockey fan. But we’re having a good time this weekend anyway. We had the fan forum today. To sit there with guys like Joe Sakic, Pavel Bure and Adam Oates, it’s very humbling. To be recognized with all the great players in the Hall, it’s really tough to take in, actually."

And for Sundin, it’s doubly special, with the home fans here in Toronto here to cheer him on.

"The Toronto Maple Leafs is the team in my heart," said Sundin. "I’m very grateful to have been part of this team. ...

"It’s very special. When I landed at the airport, I had dinner with friends and old teammates. ... Even though we live in Sweden now, every time I come here I feel like I’m coming home."

Sundin was a guarded player during his playing career, rarely showing any emotion. How he handles his speech Monday night will be intriguing.

"It’s going to be very short," he said.