Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock dedicates his award to ill Lightning assistant Wayne Fleming

Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming has been battling brain cancer for the past 14 months.

Getty Images (2010)

Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming has been battling brain cancer for the past 14 months.

PITTSBURGH — In a moment that was supposed to be about him, Ken Hitchcock turned the spotlight on an old friend.

The Blues coach, named the 2011-12 coach of the year at last week's NHL awards show in Las Vegas, knew Wayne Fleming would be watching on television back home in Calgary as he accepted the Jack Adams Award.

What better time to send a shout-out to the Lightning assistant, who is in the 14th month of a battle with brain cancer.

"I wouldn't be here without my friends," Hitchcock said while holding his trophy. "I'm dedicating this to Wayne Fleming, who's coaching the battle of his life right now. This is for you, Flemmer."

"Anybody who's grown up in western Canada, he's meant the world to us as a mentor, as a coach," Hitchcock said two days later at the draft at the Consol Energy Center. "When you see a guy like that who is struggling and you know how much coaching means to him and how we're intertwined, I just felt it was appropriate to say something."

Information about Fleming's condition has been sketchy. It is believed he mostly is confined to a bed or wheelchair, though he apparently is accepting visitors. His family is around him, and he turns 62 on July 6.

"He continues to battle," said Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who hired Fleming in July 2010. "He's having a hard time, but he's fighting really hard."

"He's not doing great," said Tampa Bay assistant Dan Lacroix, who is in close touch with Fleming and his wife, Carolyn. "So it's been really tough."

That is why moments such as the one provided by Hitchcock are so important.

"I did talk to Carolyn, and she thought that was such a nice gesture," Lacroix said. "They feel that the hockey community has been behind him big time."

No one more than Hitchcock, who said he has known Fleming for 28 years.

They were assistant coaches together with the Flyers from 2002-06, for Canada at the 2006 Turin Olympics and for Canada's gold medal runs at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and 2004 World Cup.

"He just understands team," Hitchcock said. "Everything for him is you serve the team. And he has so much respect for the crest on the jersey, he doesn't allow anybody on the staff to get in the way of the team. After you spend time working with him, you really learn to appreciate that."

And how he treats people, Hitchcock said: "He has tremendous social skills as far as interacting with everyone from the Zamboni driver to the president of the hockey club. It's a great quality."

It was natural, then, for Hitchcock to send best wishes to his old friend from one of hockey's biggest stages.

"It's a tough go for him right now," Hitchcock said. "I knew he was watching, and I just felt like I owed it to him."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock dedicates his award to ill Lightning assistant Wayne Fleming 06/29/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 29, 2012 10:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. James Wilder Jr. back at running Canada


    Remember when former Plant High star and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. announced he was switching to linebacker?

    That was short-lived, apparently.

  2. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  3. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  4. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108