Fleury needs two appeals for clearance

RED DEER, Alberta -- Suspended NHL player Theo Fleury was cleared Friday to play in an independent Canadian hockey league during the lockout.

Fleury was cleared to play for the Horse Lake Thunder after a second appeal to Hockey Alberta, which had previously blocked him from playing.

"It's been a big distraction," Thunder coach Glen Watson said. "For some unknown reason, they thought he wasn't eligible to play. Now it's over with and now he's going to be playing."

Hockey Alberta had previously stated that players under contract during the 2003-04 season and now locked out are ineligible to join a club registered with the group.

Fleury was under contract with the Chicago Blackhawks last season despite not playing a single game. He was suspended by the NHL for violating the league's substance abuse rules. Fleury, 36, last appeared in the NHL with the Blackhawks 17 months ago.

Hockey Alberta general manager Gary Mills said documents were received during the second appeal from the NHL and the NHL Players' Association that stated Fleury was not a locked-out player in the current league salary dispute but a free agent.

The decision was then made to allow him to play for the northern Alberta team. He is expected to be available for the Thunder's game on Saturday night.