By Allan Muir
Hearts are heavy in the hockey world today with the passing of long-time assistant coach Wayne Fleming.
Fleming succumbed to brain cancer on Tuesday morning. He was 62.
Though he didn’t have the public profile of some in the industry, he was highly respected by his peers as a teacher, a consensus builder, a tactician and a confidante. On the occasions that I dealt with him, he was always courteous, patient and willing to lend his insight, even after a tough loss. Just a genuinely good man.
Fleming spent more than 30 years in the game as a coach or administrator, including nine as the head coach for the University of Manitoba and six seasons in Europe with Leksands IF (Sweden, 1992-96), EHC Kloten (Switzerland, 1996-97) and Landshut (Germany, 1996-97). He returned to North America in 1997 for the next phase of his career, working behind the bench with the Rangers, Coyotes, Flyers and Flames. He most recently served under Guy Boucher, joining the Tampa Bay Lightning’s staff in 2010.
Despite those years in the NHL, Fleming probably was best known for his time with various iterations of Canada’s national team. He was an assistant to Dave King with the surprise silver medal-winning side in 1992, a term that set him up for a lifelong affiliation with the organization.
From Hockey Canada: “Fleming returned to the CHA in August 2000 as vice-president of hockey operations and head coach of Canada’s National Men’s Team, leading Team Canada behind the bench at the 2001 and 2002 IIHF World Championships, and served as associate coach under Pat Quinn at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, winning a gold medal, and 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
“He was really the glue of the coaching staff for the 2002 Olympics,” Bob Nicholson, the president and CEO of Hockey Canada, told the Toronto Sun in May 2011. “He was the guy that brought Pat Quinn and Ken Hitchcock and Jacques Martin together. That’s what Wayne is, he just does it in the background. If you talk to any of those guys, they’ll give all the credit in the world to him for us winning gold for the first time in 50 years.”
Ken Hitchcock, who worked with Fleming in Philadelphia, dedicated his Jack Adams Trophy win in 2012 to him.