When Dan Lacroix and Marty Raymond recently visited Wayne Fleming, their ailing colleague, at his Calgary home, the three Lightning assistant coaches spent the day watching and talking hockey.
"Hockey is what gets his eyes open wide," Lacroix recalled this week. "He listened mostly but he was engaged. He talked to us and we laughed and we had a really good day with him. It was nice to see his spirit."
Even so, Fleming "is not seeing a lot of improvement right now" in his 13-month fight with brain cancer, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said.
Said Lacroix: "My heart goes out to the guy."
It is clear Fleming, 61, who had brain surgery in April 2011, will not return to Tampa Bay. Even so, Yzerman said there is no plan to hire another full-time assistant, though he might hire a consultant to be at least a sounding board for Lacroix, Raymond and coach Guy Boucher.
A decision will be made when Yzerman and Boucher talk after the world championship, which ends Sunday in Helsinki, Finland, where Boucher is an assistant for Team Canada.
As for Fleming, Yzerman said, "He keeps plugging away and fighting but, unfortunately, there's not much news I can report to you."
What Lacroix can report from Helsinki, where he and Raymond are attending coaching conferences and watching the world tournament, is the keen interest in Fleming's condition.
Not surprising as Fleming has close ties to Hockey Canada for which he was vice president of hockey operations and won gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics as an associate coach. He also has coached in Sweden and Russia.
"One thing she told me," Lacroix said of Fleming's wife Carolyn, with whom he stays in touch, "is the hockey community has been unbelievable.
"Even here, I've had so many people asking us, me and Marty, 'How's Wayne?' They're going through a battle, but the support from the hockey community has been tremendous. That's been something good that's happened."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]