Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

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

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 [email protected]

Comments
Andrei Vasilevskiy’s dreams are coming true

Andrei Vasilevskiy’s dreams are coming true

GLENDALE, Ariz — Nikita Kucherov’s toughest challenge isn’t facing Canadiens goalie Carey Price, or Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky.It comes in practice against Andrei Vasilevskiy. "I’ve been saying, I thought he was going to be the top goalie in the leag...
Published: 12/13/17
Switch to wing helps Lightning’s Tyler Johnson

Switch to wing helps Lightning’s Tyler Johnson

ST. LOUIS — Tyler Johnson hasn’t played very much wing in his career, primarily sticking to his natural center position. But lately, Johnson has been stellar on the right side.Johnson’s assist in Tuesday’s win over the Blues extended his point streak...
Published: 12/13/17
Lightning opens road trip with shutout of Blues

Lightning opens road trip with shutout of Blues

ST. LOUIS — This showdown was supposed to be about the best team in the East versus the best in the West. In reality, the Lightning’s 3-0 win over the Blues on Tuesday night pretty much came down to this:Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalies ...
Published: 12/12/17

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Blues

Andrei Vasilevskiy might have made the save of the year. With the Lightning leading by one midway through the second, an Alex Steen dump-in took a wild carom off the boards. Vasilevskiiy somehow sprawled out for a right-toe save. Then, on his back, V...
Published: 12/12/17
Lightning face Blues in showdown between NHL’s top two teams

Lightning face Blues in showdown between NHL’s top two teams

The Lightning's west coast trip will start with a bang tonight in St. Louis.Tonight's game will pit the top two teams in the NHL, with Tampa Bay (21-6-2) atop the Eastern Conference, the Blues (21-8-2) the No. 1 team in the West.Fittingly, an NBCSN-a...
Published: 12/12/17
How Lightning coach Jon Cooper reinvented himself

How Lightning coach Jon Cooper reinvented himself

BRANDON — The best team in town had just wrapped up practice. The Lightning had a plane to catch, to St. Louis, where Tuesday in St. Louis begins a four-city road trip that ends at expansion Las Vegas, exclusive engagement, one show a night, unless y...
Published: 12/11/17
All boxes checked on Lightning home stand sweep; now, back to the road

All boxes checked on Lightning home stand sweep; now, back to the road

TAMPA — You don’t often see a coach making shadow puppets on the wall with his hands at the start of his postgame news conference, but that’s where the Lightning is these days after sweeping a four-game home stand with Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime v...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

Updated game story: Lightning’s Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

TAMPA — His coach says he plays every game as if he doesn’t play his best, he’s going to be sent down. That is not the case with Brayden Point, but who doesn’t want that kind of effort from a second-year player who has more than established himself i...
Published: 12/09/17

Brayden Point scores in OT to give Lightning win over Jets

TAMPA — The Jets saw Saturday’s game against the Lightning as a benchmark game, a way to measure themselves against the NHL’s top team. The Lightning had circled the game, the last of a four-game home stand."It’s going to be a big test for us," Light...
Published: 12/09/17
Lightning journal: Power-play players make me look good, Jon Cooper says

Lightning journal: Power-play players make me look good, Jon Cooper says

TAMPA — How about that Lightning power play."Coaching," coach Jon Cooper said before Saturday’s game with the Jets.He was kidding."You always look like a good coach when you can throw (Nikita) Kucherov and (Steven) Stamkos and (Victor) Hedman over th...
Published: 12/09/17