The mysterious no. 76
We all know Theo Fleury as no. 14, the short, fierce, and skilled Flames player. So why on earth is he wearing no. 76 in this picture?
Apparently, it was Whack-a-Fleury week in early December of 1998. First, Coyotes' Keith Tkachuk tried to remove his tonsils with a high stick to the throat. In the next game, Fleury was smacked in the ear by another high-stick, this time courtesy of Stars' Jason Botterill.
He endured a few more whacks and thwacks, then Fleury caught a high stick from Richard Matvichuk, and he was bleeding on his jersey, thanks to a split lip. Referee Mark Faucette ordered Fleury to get stitches and a new jersey before hitting the ice again.
So there Theo stood, angry, getting stitched up, and waiting for another jersey.
A dedicated (and helpful) Flames fan tossed his jersey over the glass to Fleury. Theo caught it, and tried to put it on. Problem #1: The jersey was indeed a no. 14, but it was autographed by a lot of the Flames. ("I couldn't play in an autographed jersey," he said after the game.)
Problem #2: It was a little too small for him. Yes, really. (The mind boggles, doesn't it?)
The trainer was off scouring the dressing room for another no. 14. In the meantime, Fleury had to sit, as the clock ticked away a tight game in the third period and the Flames had a power play.
Finally, the trainer found a nameless no. 76. It'd have to do. Fleury tossed it on, and headed for the ice. Just to make sure it was clear to referee Faucette who it was, Fleury made sure to have a few (colourful, I'm sure) words with the ref.
Unfortunately, the Flames lost that game, 3-2, and coach Brian Sutter blamed it partly on the sweater problem. "Three minutes left, we're down a goal, we have a power play and we can't get our best player on the ice," he fumed.
Fleury himself tried to shrug off the incident, and all the high sticks. "Those things usually happen in threes," he said of his stick beatings. "I think I'm okay for awhile."
What hurt most was losing yet another game by one goal, their 10th one-goal loss of the 1998-99 season.