Job offer catches Fleming off-Gard

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:52 AM ET

Headhunting was never part of Jaromir Jagr's game.

It is now.

Hoping to land a new head coach, the KHL's Avangard Omsk recruited their star player to do a little recruiting of his own for them.

Wayne Fleming got a call early this week from Jagr, asking whether the Calgary Flames assistant would be interested in leading his Russian squad.

"It catches your attention," Fleming said of the call from the former NHL great. "At first, I wasn't really sure it was him calling."

It was no joke. Not long after team management called to talk numbers the next day, Fleming found agreed to a one-year deal to replace head coach Sergei Gersonskiy, who was fired after Avangard got off to a 2-4 start to the season.

Fleming, a 57-year-old Winnipeg product who first started coaching with the University of Manitoba Bisons and headed up Canada's men's national team in 2001 and '02, has been an NHL assistant with the Flames, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers. But he always had an itch to return to the head coaching role he held in Europe in the early 1990s.

He turned down an offer from Dinamo Minsk in Belarus earlier this year, but the allure of Omsk made the decision to leave Calgary a little easier.

"It's undoubtedly the second best league in the world right now. Omsk is a very strong franchise. It's got great history," said Fleming.

"It's about 58 years old. It's one that attracted a lot of top NHLers during the lockout -- Jaromir Jagr being one of them.

"And Jaromir's since returned there, so that's a pretty good indication that's a pretty good place to work and to play and to live."

Still, saying goodbye to the Flames was tough.

With a one-year contract, he left the door open to return to the NHL.

"It was actually tough to leave here this afternoon," Fleming said. "You build such a bond when you're in the battle zones and fighting hard. You carry those (memories) with you."


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