BY GEORGE RICHARDS [email protected]
Facebook: On Frozen Pond
When Tomas Fleischmann skated off the ice in Colorado last year because he couldn't catch his breath, he sure didn't think that would be the end of his season.
Blood clots were found in both of Fleischmann's lungs in January 2011, ending his season and putting his future plans in doubt.
Fleischmann had already been told he may never play the game again after he was diagnosed with another blood disorder – deep vein thrombosis – after he lost feeling in his legs after a long flight home to the Czech Republic.
Fleischmann, in his first season with the Panthers, now has to wear compression pants under his suit on team flights and will likely have to take various blood thinners the rest of his life. But he's playing hockey again – and happy about it.
“[Hockey] is the only the thing I am good at, the only thing I know how to do. When they tell you can't do it, you wonder 'what am I going to do with my life'? But the decision was made two weeks after the test. I was excited.''
Fleischmann was cleared to resume his career in the summer and he has bounced back in Florida after signing a four-year deal with the Panthers on July 1. General manager Dale Tallon spoke to doctors and was assured Fleischmann will lead a normal – if not a little restricted and looked after – life after that last scare.
On Monday, the Florida chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated Fleischmann for the annual Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy which is awarded to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication” to the sport.
“What an excellent choice,'' Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “[The blood disorder] is part of his resume now. I spoke to him about it once at training camp and he was very matter-of-fact about it, comfortable in talking about it. He didn't foresee it being a problem moving forward. There was a little leap of faith by Dale to sign him like that, but it's worked out.''
Fleischmann has been a strong player for the Panthers this season after being paired with Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg on the top line for opening night against the Islanders. Fleischmann goes into Tuesday's game against the Flyers leading the team in goals (22) and scoring (52 points) as he has played in all 71 games this season.
That's quite the contrast to last season when he played his final game on Jan. 18, 2011 for the Avalanche.
Fleischmann last topped the 70-game plateau with the Capitals in 2008-09. Fleischmann scored 21 points in 22 games with the Avs after falling out of favor with Washington coach Bruce Boudreau and being traded west.
“I'm just happy I can play hockey again. I'm enjoying the moment,'' Fleischmann said. “I always hoped I could play again and the doctors were positive. That kept me going. The one thing was I didn't have a contract, but Florida trusted me. I'm happy to be here, playing here right now.''
The award is named for Bill Masterton, who died in 1968 after being injured in a game while playing for the Minnesota North Stars. Panthers goalie Jose Theodore won the award in 2010 while with the Capitals.