TORONTO — Former NHL star Theo Fleury is set to lace up his skates for the upcoming season of Battle of the Blades.
The forward joins former Habs and Leafs player Russ Courtnall and six other hockey stars for a second go-round of the kitschy CBC-TV reality show, which kicks off Sept. 26.
Fleury recently made headlines for alleging sexual abuse at the hands of former coach Graham James.
Blades executive producer John Brunton said Thursday that the 41-year-old former Calgary Flame will be a strong competitor on the show.
“It’s a great opportunity, Battle of the Blades, to kind of reinvent yourself and it’s a great opportunity to be seen by the Canadian public in a different light than what you’ve necessarily been seen as,” Brunton said at a celeb-studded event to announce the CBC’s fall season.
“My hope for this is that it brings some excitement and some fun to a life that’s been very dark and very troubled at times and that he has a great opportunity to have as much fun as we have doing the show.”
Claims by the 41-year-old Fleury in his autobiography, Playing with Fire, reopened an investigation into James over abuse that allegedly took place during the 1980s.
Brunton said the full roster of hockey stars and figure skaters had not been nailed down yet, but the second season will feature newly retired pairs skater Anabelle Langlois and returning figure skaters Shae-Lynn Bourne and Christine Hough-Sweeney.
He added that the series will take a measured approach when referring to Fleury’s personal life, which has included a battle with drugs and alcoholism.
“We’re not 60 Minutes, we’re Battle of the Blades,” Brunton said as stars including Paul Gross, Being Erica” star Erin Karpluk, The National’s Peter Mansbridge and Battle co-host Kurt Browning milled about CBC headquarters noshing on hors d’oeuvres.
“But at the same time I don’t think we’re shying away from any part of Theo’s story. I think that we want to be honest but it’s a figure skating competition . . . We’re not looking to answer any dark questions necessarily about what Theo went through but I’m sure Theo will use this as a platform to talk about it.”