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Simmons praises Wayne Fleming, CIS coaching legends

The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons spends most of his Sunday column discussing non-hockey topics, but this note about the recent passing of Wayne Fleming's worth posting for two reasons.

The first involves Fleming's character and integrity, and the second involves something that Simmons and the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson have been hammering home for half-a-decade now: in the late 70's and early 80's, the Canadian Intrauniversity Sport hockey league was a hockey hotbed in terms of breeding NHL-caliber coaches.

While the names Simmons mentions aren't necessarily Hockey Hall of Famers, the trio fundamentally changed the way the game of hockey was coached at the amateur, professional and international levels in Canada, and the Ken Hitchcocks, Mike Babcocks and Kevin Lowes of the hockey world were profoundly influenced by Fleming and his contemporaries:

I couldn’t name many CIS hockey coaches today, but I could back in 1979 when Wayne Fleming was coaching Manitoba, Dave King was coaching Saskatchewan, Clare Drake ran the Alberta program and George Kingston was in charge at Calgary. All four went on to coach professionally and be part of Canada’s Olympic program where King and Drake were among the head coaches from 1980 to 1992. And three of the Canada West coaches, including Fleming, went on to the NHL.

Fleming succumbed to brain cancer after a long battle earlier this week, but from humble beginnings he had an impressive career, and more than that, left his mark with people and players everywhere he went. He had a way about him. If you met Fleming once, you never forgot him. If you had a conversation, it was probably memorable. If you wanted an answer or an opinion, you knew you could trust him to share one.

There are many good people in the hockey business but there is one fewer now than there was last week.

Continued with the usual assortment of Sunday notebook topics represented.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com