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Fleming finds home in Edmonton

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers
Oilers Assistant Coach Wayne Fleming, right, joins Pat Quinn, Ken Hitchcock, and Wayne Gretzky during the announcement of coaches for Team Canada of the 2004 World Cup Hockey in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

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Wayne Fleming may not be a name Oilers fans are familiar with, but his resume certainly resonates. Three months after the Oilers hired Pat Quinn as head coach, Tom Renney as associate coach, and renewed Kelly Buchberger’s position in the assistant category, the club completed their coaching unit by adding Fleming on August 25th.

With eight years NHL coaching experience in Calgary, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and New York, as well as a season in the KHL and a handful of international tournaments, Fleming complements Edmonton’s already stacked coaching staff. The Winnipeg native anticipates an exciting and challenging year alongside his coaching colleagues, many of whom he considers old friends.

“The opportunity to come back to a situation like this one, back to North America, is exciting, and the ability to work with Pat Quinn and Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe after our experiences with the National team and the Olympics and World Cup will be great. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with Tom Renney and am really excited about working with Kelly,” Fleming says.

As assistant coach with Buchberger, Fleming will answer to Quinn and Renney this season, a situation that the newest Oiler is familiar with. While working with Quinn internationally, Fleming helped guide Team Canada to their 2002 Olympic gold medal and 2004 World Cup Championship. As such, he’s looking forward to renewing that coaching chemistry with the Oilers bench boss.

“Some individuals, you just seem to be able to connect to,” Fleming explains. “During my time with the Olympic team, we spent a lot of time together in our preparation and with team selection, working on general tactical plays and so forth. I just seems to be a good fit – we’re able to read off each other, and though we weren’t always on the same wavelength, we were able to communicate and come up with solutions that worked.”

After missing the playoffs for the past three seasons, Edmontonians are looking for solutions – and results – in 2009-10. The pressure is on, and Fleming says he knows what to expect and he’s ready to face it.

“The challenges are similar with any elite team, any elite organization. Some teams seem to have the attitude that as long they’re competing, they’re just happy to be there. But elite teams are there for a purpose and that’s to win the cup. The Oilers are an elite team.

“Everybody in this organization is going to be under the same stresses,” he continues. “A lot of the pressure is what you’re going to place on yourself. Expectations are set high and rightfully so – you set high standards and you do everything you possibly can to reach those standards. If you do that right, it usually ends up with winning the last game of the year and hopefully winning the Stanley Cup.”

If the Cup is the finish line and the first game of the season is the starting block, then Fleming and the rest of the Oilers coaches and management are congregated well behind the gate, planning the race step by step. Rookie Camp, Training Camp, and then the season itself are on the itinerary at the coaches’ meetings currently underway in Penticton, B.C., leaving Fleming little time to settle into his new job and readjust to life on this side of the pond. But after years of adapting to new cities and new systems, the Oilers’ new assistant isn’t concerned.

“With experience at the national level and with a number of outstanding organizations, in particular the Flyers and Flames, I continue to gather information on how those organizations work and operate. I’ve also had the opportunity to work in a number of elite leagues in Europe, and I think I have the ability to meld the two experiences together – a hybrid idea of what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve been fortunate to have the experiences I’ve had and to work with tremendous coaches in different areas, and I’m excited to bring it all to Edmonton.”
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