Thursday

Reggie Fleming

One of my all time favorite quotes was from Gordie Howe when he talked about tough left winger Reggie Fleming.

"Is Reggie Fleming a hard-nosed player?" a reporter questioned Mr. Hockey.

"I don't know. I never felt his nose," quipped Howe.

While we don't know if he had a hard nose per se, we can answer the reporter's question for him - yes, Reggie Fleming was a very hard-nosed player.

He was a highly effective utility forward though he originally was a defenseman. Born in Montreal, Fleming spent most of his junior and minor league career playing defense. However due to his small size (5'8" 170lbs) he was converted to a left wing for much of his NHL career. With his decent speed and physical, hustling style he was an extraordinary penalty killer. Another reason for his great penalty killing was he was a superb defensive forward, as many players are once they are converted from the blueline to the forward position. Fleming already had a great understanding of defensive positioning by the time he moved up.

He was also a pesky player. He loved to get under the skin of the opponents, disrupting them from their game, thus giving his team a much better chance of victory. The opposition hated him, but Chicago fans loved him.

Fleming started his career with his hometown Montreal Canadiens, but only saw limited action in just 3 games. Most of his first 2 pro seasons were spent at the minor league level, as a defenseman.

Reggie was part of a 9 player (mostly prospects/minor leaguers) trade with the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer of 1960. The trade was definitely great news for Reg, as he became an NHL regular the following season for the next 11 years. It was in Chicago that he was converted to left wing, though also saw time along the blueline when need be.

In his first year in Chicago teammates nicknamed him "Mr. Clean" because of his bullnecked, crew cut appearance that resembled the mascot for the famous cleaning product. But in actuality Fleming was one of the NHL's dirtier players. He would lead the league in penalty minutes in 1965-66 and had a career total of 1468 PIM in 749 games. In one game in his rookie season, Fleming set an NHL record (since bettered) for most penalty minutes in one game against the New York Rangers. A bru-ha-ha escalated after Ranger goalie Jack McCartan whacked Reg with his goal stick. Every player on the ice got involved but it was Fleming who earned 37 minutes in penalties based upon a two-minute minor penalty, two more five-minute penalties and a ten-minute misconduct penalty, plus a game-misconduct penalty!

Fleming played 4 solid seasons with the Blackhawks "Gashouse Gang." That was the nickname given to the Hawks because of their rough, physical style of play. But in 1964 the Hawks traded Reg with Ab McDonald to Boston in exchange for Dougie Mohns. He responded with his best NHL season in Boston, scoring 18 goals and adding 23 assists. In his previous 4 years in the league, Fleming only scored a combined total of 21 goals and 26 assists, so this was definitely a breakthrough year for the winger. The Bruins at the time were the cellar-dwellars of the league and Reg had a chance to play a more significant role while with the B's.

In the middle of the 65-66 season Reggie was traded to the New York Rangers for John McKenzie. The deal was one of a few significant moves by the Bruins which helped to build up the B's to the Stanley Cup championship calibre teams of 1970 and 1972.

Fleming would enjoy 3 1/2 seasons of solid play on Broadway. In 1969 he was traded to the expansion Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers of course would go on to become hockey's "Broad Street Bullies" just a couple of years after Fleming's departure. Needless to say the Flyers acquired Fleming for his veteran leadership and to lay the seeds of what was to come in Philadelphia.

Fleming's stay in Philly was short as the following season he was selected in the Expansion Draft by the Buffalo Sabres. He played admirably for the Sabres but 1970-71 proved to be Fleming's swan song in the NHL.

Fleming continued to play minor league hockey for parts of 6 years after his NHL days were over. Two of these seasons were spent in Chicago with the WHA's Cougars.

Fleming will forever be remembered as one of hockey's most ferocious competitors.

Update: Regular reader David Morris sent me this gem the other day.



Reggie Fleming was a tough-as-nails players back in the 1960s. He suffered a stroke a few years ago and his health has been failing ever since.

His son, Chris, a noted film maker (Dead Famous, anyone?), has been filming his visits with his father at a rehab center near Chicago. It is moving stuff, with eight in the series so far:

Reggie Fleming (Chicago BlackHawk Alumni) Video Interview 1
Reggie Fleming (Chicago BlackHawk Alumni) Video Interview 2
Reggie Fleming (Chicago BlackHawk Alumni) Video Interview 3
Reggie Fleming (Chicago BlackHawk Alumni) Video Interview 4
Reggie Fleming (Chicago BlackHawk Alumni) Video Interview 5
Reggie Fleming (Chicago BlackHawk Alumni) Video Interview 6
Reggie Fleming (Chicago BlackHawk Alumni) Video Interview 7
Reggie Fleming (Chicago BlackHawk Alumni) Video Interview 8

13 comments:

penaltykiller9 6:18 PM  

"Reggie the Ruffian" one of my all time favorites.Reg was perpetual motion and hustle, a key member of the Hawk's last cup win as his shorthanded breakaway goal was instrumental in the series win. It was no co-incidence that the Rangers resurgence began when Reggie joined the team adding toughness,desire and the great penalty killing duo of Fleming and Kurtenbach

Anonymous,  1:13 AM  

Check out recent interviews with Reggie Fleming on his hockey years at youtube. Type in Reggie Fleming. 3 videos up now.

-Chris

Greg G 1:13 PM  

I will never forget the scraps Reggie had with old number 23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs, yes the one and only Eddie "the Entertainer" Shack! You talk about great hockey action, those guys provided it. One of my all time favorite Hawks.

dan mack- so.side,  9:37 PM  

Went to see Gretzky one of his first seasons at the old Chicago Stadium.
Someone pointed out to me that Reggie
was sitting a few rows behind us. I
checked it out and I could hear his
somewhat squeaky voice and saw it was indeed him. Later in the game,
a fight broke out up there and guess
who was in the middle of it? Must have been the air in that old stadium
that got into his blood. He threw a
coupla punches and snuck out.

Anonymous,  4:41 AM  

I AM A NURSE AT THE CLAREMONT. IT IS INDEED AN HONOR TO BE A PART OF MR. FLEMINGS CARE TEAM. HE IS A VERY APPRECIATIVE, GRACIOUS AND RESPECTFUL GENTLEMAN. EVERYBODY LOVES REGGIE FLEMING. WE ALL RESPECT HIM GREATLY. OTHER RESIDENTS KNOW OF HIM HERE. IT IS A PLEASURE TO HAVE HIM HERE AT THE CLAREMONT. THANK YOU. D REDD

Anonymous,  6:51 AM  

Chris, it was a pleasure meeting you in Boston last week.I checked out your website and learned of what you have done to show your love for your father. Your dad is a great dad and you are a wonderful, caring son. As a dad, I know that your dad is very proud of you.I have not been able to view the interviews with your dad but I will soon.My wife Judy and I are having a nightmarish time dealing with Mike's death which I am sure we will take to our grave.
Our life has been changed forever.
It was a pleasure meeting you. Good luck with your project.
John W. Leccese (PI)

Anonymous,  8:50 PM  

To Chris and Kelly:

I wanted to express my condolences to both of you regarding the terrible news of your father's passing.

To this day, I still remember meeting your father for the first time back in 1974 when we moved to Hoffman Estates on Park Lane. Your Dad was my first brush with fame and I'll never forget it.

My prayers are with each of you during these difficult times. Thanks for posting the video interviews, Chris. Now we all can share in remembering your father.

- Mike Tempelman

Anonymous,  8:51 PM  

The Blackhawk family and hockey fans lost a great one today. RIP Reg.

Enjoy that rink in heaven-- watch out for those penalty minutes :)

7-11-09

Anonymous,  11:45 PM  

Our prayers are with the Fleming family. I had the pleasure of knowing Reggie in his later years of hockey. He was with the Kenosha Flyers for a while and I knew him when they practiced at the Polar Dome in Dundee, IL. He was a great guy and was always friendly. God Bless you Reg! Bob Wahl, St. Louis, MO.

barry kazminski,  3:14 PM  

I didnt know Reggie but he was as tuff as nails and a dirty hockey player, but hockey is a tough game.I played against him when he was on Kenosha, i wouldnt mess with him even though he was past his prime.God bless.

john w leccese,  3:48 PM  

Chris,

I just learned of your dad's passing and I send my condolences.

John W. Leccese
(PI from Boston)

Anonymous,  5:42 PM  

I can still remember watching the Hawks play the Leafs on a Saturday night back in the sixties when Reggie instigated an all-out brawl that lasted for about 20 minutes. What a hoot! Even as a kid, I knew that Reggie Fleming was a showman (and also a good hockey player). It was impossible to take your eyes off him, he was always up to something! We'll miss you Reggie, and go Hawks go!

Bob 11:31 AM  

I know this is very late, but I just found this site. I remember watching Reg play and always loved the toughness he brought to the game. I later had the opportunity to play golf with Reggie at Hilldale Country Club where he was a guest at of our President of our golf league. I can remember him and his friend Al trying to clear the lake on one of the holes. Several balls came up short and these two were determined to clear it. Longest hole of golf I ever played!!!! Also visited him at the re-had center. My Mom was in the room next to his. We'll Miss Ya Reg!!!

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