May 4, 2011, 12:16 AM EDT
Every once in a while, a sports team is rocked when someone close to them faces a grave health condition. It seems trivial to say that they’re “winning it” for that person, but those wins must seem sweeter when they do.
The Tampa Bay Lightning took a shocking 3-0 series lead with their resourceful Game 3 win, but the victory didn’t seem to be the first thing on their minds. Instead, the team seemed to bask in a different success. Bruce Arthur reports that assistant coach Wayne Fleming was alert and responsive after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor.
Arthur wrote that Fleming escaped paralysis thanks to that surgery, which lasted eight hours. Despite these personal struggles, Fleming still sent every player on the team messages of encouragement and/or advice.
Before the game, Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming endured an eight-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor at the UC Irvine Douglas Hospital in California. Fleming had sent players text messages after each of the first two games — “I think he texted every guy on the team,” said Stamkos — with advice.
At this point, it’s the other guys could use wise counsel. Just after Tampa’s third-period surge, the team announced Fleming was alert and talking — Fleming’s son Jarett said his father had escaped the possibility of paralysis, but was unable to say much more than “I love you.” Before the surgery, his family had said their goodbyes, just in case. Today, they will have better news to share.
As great as the Lightning’s run has been, their mixture of young talent and still-in-their-prime players bodes well for their future. Hopefully Fleming will be around to witness that maturation process. If he could eventually do so back behind their bench, then even better.
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