, a winger who spent four of his 11 NHL seasons with the Rangers, died in suburban Chicago on Saturday at the age of 73.
Fleming scored 50 goals and 99 points in 241 career regular-season games as a Ranger, but was a true fan favorite for his ability to stick up for teammates and play the role of enforcer. In 1965-66, he led the league with 166 penalty minutes in 69 games, including 124 PIM in only 35 games after joining the Rangers in a midseason trade for John McKenzie on Jan. 10, 1966.
|Reg Fleming was a fan favorite during his seasons with the Rangers and was also known among teammates for both his competitiveness and sense of humor. |
During his years with the Rangers from 1966 to 1969, the 5-foot-8 Fleming was always one of the most popular targets of autograph seekers, who appreciated his skills in addition to his ability to intimidate opponents. As a Ranger, Fleming also showed his offensive flair, scoring 17 goals -- the second-highest total of his career -- for the Blueshirts in 1967-68.
In each of his four seasons with the team, Fleming led the Rangers in penalty minutes, picking up 540 PIM in his 241 regular-season games. He also appeared in 13 playoff games as a Ranger, registering four assists and 22 penalty minutes.
Also known to fans as Reggie, Fleming set an NHL record of 37 penalty minutes in one game on Oct. 19, 1960, at Madison Square Garden. He was playing for Chicago at that time and would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Hawks in 1961. His single-game penalty-minutes record stood for eight years until Toronto's Jim Dorey broke it with 48 PIM on Oct. 16, 1968.
Although Dorey took him out of the record books, Fleming would go on to set a new personal high with 39 minutes in an Oct. 18, 1970, game during his final NHL season with the Buffalo Sabres. That number, however, pales in comparison to the current NHL record of 67 minutes by Randy Holt on March 11, 1979.
Fleming cracked 100 PIM in all but two of his NHL seasons and would retire with 1,468 penalty minutes in 749 games, leaving the league among the all-time leaders in that category.
Among the first Rangers players to wear the now-retired No. 9 following the departure of Andy Bathgate, Fleming received high praise from former Rangers general manager and coach Emile Francis.
"Fleming in the type of player every team needs," Francis said in 1967. "He keeps the other team honest and on its toes. No one takes any undue advantage when Reg is on the ice."
Fleming played both right and left wing for the Rangers, but had also played defense in his earlier NHL years with Chicago, which was his off-season home throughout his NHL career and into retirement. It was not until 1964 that Fleming became a forward, and he went on to a career year with Boston (18 goals and 41 points) immediately after the switch was made.
A native of Montreal, Fleming broke into the NHL with his hometown Canadiens before moving on to Boston just three games into his career with the Habs. In addition to his years with Chicago, Boston and the Rangers, Fleming spent single seasons in Philadelphia and Buffalo.