It’s not everyday inmates at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary get a visit from a Stanley Cup Champion.
Former NHL player and best-selling author Theo Fleury visited Prince Albert on Wednesday to talk to inmates about healing and trauma.
The visit is part of Fleury’s tour for his newest book, Conversations with a Rattlesnake. Fleury and co-author Kim Barthel have already visited three other Canadian prisons to gain insight into the psyche and behavior of inmates.
“When you have trauma as a child, it changes your brain and why you do what you do. I think for many inmates that’s a new perspective for them in helping them understand their own self,” said Barthel.
According to Fleury, the conversations have been as helpful to the inmates as they have been to him.
“We see them sort of rethinking about their life. They’re talking about change, they talk about hope,” he said. “It’s like they have their own revelation and it explains to them a lot of the reason why they’re in there in the first place.”
Fleury’s battle against alcohol and addictions has been well documented. He said he feels a connection with the inmates, often letting them know he could see himself in their shoes.
“My experiences are very, very similar to their childhood experiences and there’s a real sort of brotherhood connection with them,” said Fleury.
Barthel, who is also a neuroscientist, said watching Fleury speak to the inmates has helped her get a better understanding of how childhood trauma can influence adult actions.
“It has been an incredible sense of understanding to what’s inside their mind that has given us a tremendous amount of awareness of how hurt-people hurt people,” said Barthel.
“What I’ve learned is anything is possible. We can always change and we can always improve the quality of our lives if we’re willing to look inside of ourselves for all of those answers,” said Fleury. “I think what they’ve taught us is compassion, which is the biggest lesson that we all need to learn – the lesson of how to become more compassionate.”