Originally from Carlyle, Saskatchewan and now calling Calgary home, Cale Fleury spent a lot of his formative years in Cranbrook.
The former Kootenay Ice captain was traded to the Regina Pats on Monday morning, in the middle of his fourth season with the WHL franchise.
“It’s kind of bittersweet for me to be leaving Cranbrook and the team,” Fleury told the Townsman. “I have a lot of good relationships on the team with some guys that I’ve been with for four or five years, from when I was [first] in training camp.
“[At the same time], I’m really excited to go to Regina. They are a really good team and obviously, with them hosting the Memorial Cup, it’s exciting, knowing I’m going to be able to play in that.”
Fleury was originally drafted by the Ice in the fourth round of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Cracking the roster for the 2014-15 season, the 1998-born defenceman quickly emerged as a top player and won the team’s ‘rookie of the year’ award.
In 218 games with Kootenay, Fleury put up 86 points and won back-to-back ‘Fan Club Player of the Year’ awards.
— Cale Fleury (@CJF_98) November 14, 2017
After having been named captain in January under owner and general manager Jeff Chynoweth, Fleury experienced the monumental shift when the team was sold in May and was a vital part of the team moving into a new era.
“Cale and I spent a lot of time during the transition [and] he was very helpful in terms of the direction we were moving,” said president and general manager Matt Cockell. “[He gave] great feedback [on what] we’ve been trying to accomplish, in terms of player experience and all things designed to help give our players the best opportunity as people and [how] to become a pro.
“I believe [he’s] going to be a pro hockey player, but he’s [mostly just] a tremendous person and he’s meant a lot to our team.”
Over the summer, Fleury was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft. As someone who knows what a professional franchise looks like, he believes that the Ice are going in the right direction even as he’s departing.
“[I told Matt] just keep doing what he’s doing [because] I think the future for this team is really great,” Fleury said. “Everyone involved [with the Ice] have been really good to me. The organization is really classy and big on player development and player experience.”
— Kootenay ICE (@WHLKootenayICE) November 14, 2017
Talking about what lies ahead in Regina with the hockey-crazy market there and the Memorial Cup in May, Fleury is undoubtedly eager for the next chapter of his journey.
“I got to watch my brother [Hadyn] go through [the Memorial Cup] a couple of years ago when he was in Red Deer and it seemed pretty far away from [ever happening for me],” he said. “Once I saw that Regina was hosting it, I thought maybe there’d be a chance, but I wasn’t really too sure. Now that it’s happened, I’m really excited.”
The 6,484-seat Brandt Centre is a part of Regina that Fleury is really looking to get comfortable in.
“I think they’re filling up most of the home games right now, so it should be pretty exciting that I get to play there,” he said. “Hopefully, the fans will be as good as they are in Cranbrook.”
One game, however, that he admits will be strange, is the Pats’ March 9 visit to Western Financial Place.
“It’ll be weird playing there on the away side against all the guys that I’ve been hanging out with for years,” he said. “I don’t know [how I’ll feel].”
According to Cockell, he expects Fleury will have a great end to his year with the Pats and wishes him the best moving forward. He admits, however, if he is to have an off-night he wouldn’t mind it happening when they play the Ice.
“I’ve only got to know him over the last number of months here, [but] he has nothing but great things to say about his time with the Ice here and the community and I look forward to him doing very well,” Cockell said.
“Except when he is playing against us,” he laughed.