Former Flames sniper Theo Fleury set a new record in Red Deer on Wednesday.
Due at 6 p.m. to sign copies of his book, Playing With Fire, Fleury was drawing a crowd by 3 p.m.
Within four hours, he had set a new record for the largest crowd ever to pack the Red Deer Chapters store for a book signing.
“Nobody expected this,” said store manager Brett Edginton, watching the lineup of people snaking between his shelves.
The store had 337 copies of the book available for sale on Wednesday morning. By closing time, they were all gone. Edginton said he hopes to get more copies in next week.
Ron Rodgers, who was only 11 when Fleury joined the Flames, said he was a Fleury fan from the get-go and chose to wear No. 14 when he played minor hockey.
“He was my favourite player.”
A key element of the book is Fleury’s allegation that he was sexually abused as a young player by coach Graham James, the same man convicted of abusing Sheldon Kennedy.
Fleury’s younger brother, Ted, said the allegations came as a surprise to him and other members of his family, who learned about them shortly before the book was first published.
Going public with his story has changed Fleury’s outlook on life, said Ted.
“He’s really focused on helping people with anything that they need. He’s in a good place now. That’s the biggest thing.”
Ted said he doesn’t know how much longer his brother could have kept his story bottled up without it becoming more destructive.
“Somebody who’s had something like that happen to them, they need the right tools to get themselves better. Over the years, he’s gotten the tools to help him re-frame his thinking.”
Ted said he is not up to date with Fleury’s attempt to have charges laid against his former coach.
Rodgers and others waiting in the lineup said they found the sexual abuse story hard to take.
David Clark, 31, purchased two copies as Christmas gifts.
“It was shocking that that type of thing happens. It’s not shocking that he’s writing a book about it.”
Regarding Fleury’s comeback effort with the Flames, Clark said it’s just as well that he didn’t make the team.
“I think it probably went as far as it should,” said Clark.