TULSA, Okla. – As the Tulsa Oilers look to close out their 2012-13 season with a pair of home wins this weekend, fans will also witness the end of an era.
Oilers captain Tyler Fleck announced Friday that he will hang up the skates following the season finale against the Allen Americans. The game will mark his 773rd as a professional, closing out 14-seasons in the Central Hockey League. He is one of only five players in league history to surpass the 700-game mark, and is second on the all-time list of games played.
Fleck has played over 200 games for the Oilers after spending 10 seasons with the Oklahoma City Blazers. His hard hits as a Blazer, which became branded as “Fleck checks,” earned him the distinction of being one of the most hated rival players of Oilers fans. That would all change in the 2009–10 season after the Blazers abruptly closed shop during the off-season.
After opening the season with a short stint in Missouri, Fleck rejoined Blazers teammate Marty Standish in Tulsa. A shoulder injury cut his season short after just 17 games, but Fleck battled back and has since played in every regular-season game over the last three years with Tulsa. He also led the Oilers into the second round of the post-season in 2011, and became a fan favorite in Tulsa.
“Tyler Fleck is the grittiest player to ever put on an Oilers jersey,” Oilers owner Jeff Lund said. “He gave everything he had every shift, every night. He’s a first-class individual and he embodies everything we want our organization to stand for. Hockey in Tulsa is not going to be the same without Tyler Fleck, but we wish him and his family nothing but the best.”
Fleck can boast many accomplishments throughout his career. As a member of the Blazers, he won the 2000–01 CHL championship, and was also selected as an All-Star twice. On the stat sheet he has amassed 40 goals, 157 assists, 1,522 penalty minutes and has recorded 12 points in 66 career post-season games.
“Not only is Tyler Fleck one of the most professional players I’ve ever had the privilege to coach, he’s also the hardest working hockey player I’ve ever been around,” Oilers Head Coach Bruce Ramsay said. “He is respected by his teammates and everyone around this rink because he’s always played the game the right way. He’s going to be missed.”
Fleck is also well known for what he does off the ice. In June 2008, former Blazers teammate Les Borsheim, then a defenseman for the Colorado Eagles, was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. Fleck was quick to rise to his friend’s aid, helping to develop a website that accepted donations to help with Borsheim’s medical bills.
The gesture earned Fleck the respect of fans across the league. When the Blazers traveled to Colorado to take on the Eagles in December 2008, he was greeted with a standing ovation.
“It was real emotional. I had a lump in my throat for sure, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Fleck told The Oklahoman in an interview.
Fleck, who resides in Edmond, Oklahoma with his wife Melissa and daughter Taryn, already seems to have his eyes set on a post-retirement career. Through his company, Hardnosed Apparel, Fleck has designed jerseys for several teams in the Central Hockey League. He also designed specialty jerseys the Oilers wore for Turn Tulsa Pink, Military Appreciation Night and Throwback Weekend. He has since designed jerseys for the Wichita thunder and Missouri Mavericks.
“You can’t play hockey forever,” Fleck told the Tulsa World in a recent interview. “When hockey is over, it looks more and more like what I am going to be doing. It is something I look forward to doing after hockey.”
As Fleck heads into his final weekend as a professional hockey player, he looks forward to what the future holds while reflecting on the past 14 years.
“I still love the game, I still love playing the game, but it’s time for me to walk away,” he said on Friday. “I’m very grateful to the Oilers organization for these last few seasons and I know I’m going to miss being around the guys, but I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in the game of hockey and I want to thank all my teammates over the years who have helped me in so many ways.”
In a September, 2010 interview with The Oklahoman during Oklahoma City Barons training camp, Fleck reflected on his career. “At the start of your career, you start off playing hockey and having fun, so I’m going to finish that way.” Fleck seems to be doing just that.
The Oilers host the Wichita Thunder at 7:35 PM on Saturday, and the Allen Americans at 4:05 PM on Sunday. Both games will be played at the BOK Center.
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