Dr Dave Fleiszer takes in
the sunset at the site of his football glory, McGill
University's Percival Molson Stadium. He hasn't
strayed far the field is within walking distance
from the Royal Vic Hospital where he's co-director
of the celebrated patient-centric Cedars Breast
Photo credit: Liam
Dr David Fleiszer is still running.
On this crisp autumn morning he
bounds between performing minor' surgery and sparing
some precious moments for our interview in his office
as his first patients take their seats out in the hall.
The rest of the day will be a marathon, though that's
no challenge for the football champ turned surgeon
he's already run three of those. And at some point this
week Dr Fleiszer, who is also co-director of the Cedars
Breast Cancer Clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital
in Montreal, will lace up his sneakers and steal an
hour for a run past his old stomping grounds, McGill's
Percival Molson Stadium.
Dr Fleiszer spent five years playing
McGill varsity football at the stadium, racking up 21
touchdowns and 2,177 yards as one of the best fullbacks
to ever run the ball for the Redmen. He was named team
MVP twice, McGill athlete of the year once, and was
the first McGill player to win the Hec Crighton Trophy
as the most outstanding football player in the nation.
That came in 1969, the year he led his team to the Ontario-Quebec
championship and a berth in the Vanier Cup. (Dr Fleiszer
scored two touchdowns in the Vanier Cup game, a 24-15
loss to Manitoba.) Not surprisingly, that year still
stands out for him.
"Without question, the best memories
I have are from our championship team in 1969," he says.
"It was an unbelievably wonderful group of guys led
by George Wall, our quarterback. I don't think I've
met anybody with more grit than George. It was a special
group that completely put out for each other."
Dr Fleiszer was already established
as the team's star at the beginning of that season,
having won the conference scoring title the year before.
But he says the team's true strength was its attitude.
"We were fierce," he says. "We
weren't particularly big or particularly talented. But
everybody played one hundred percent and we trusted
each other to do our jobs. Everyone was so willing to
put out for the team, it was never about individual
Montreal-born Dr Fleiszer earned
a bachelor of science in 1969, a medical degree in 1973
and a masters degree in science in 1979, all at McGill.
He says even his decision to pursue medicine after completing
his BSc in 1969 had something to do with football. "I
had two years of football left to go, so I looked at
various graduate schools to see what would be okay to
be in while I finished my football career, and medicine
seemed to be the best," he says. "You could say I backed
into medicine and it turned out to be great."
After graduation the Montreal Alouettes
offered him a tryout, but this time he chose medicine.
But he cast a long shadow at McGill: some of his rushing
records still stand.
Dr Fleiszer reconnects with
Photo credit: Liam
AND MEDICINE COLLIDE
Five years ago, Dr Fleiszer was given a rare chance
to combine sports and medicine. In a play that remains
one of the more gruesome on-ice incidents in NHL history,
Montreal Canadiens forward Trent McCleary was hit in
the throat by a puck during a game against the Philadelphia
Flyers. At the urging of his wife, a child psychologist
at the Montreal General Hospital, Dr Fleiszer left his
seat to help team doctor David Mulder and his assistant
in the dressing room. They managed to keep the right
winger breathing before sending him to the hospital.
Dr Mulder later told the Montreal Gazette, "It
was a matter of seconds before death. If Dr Fleiszer
and I hadn't been able to keep Trent breathing all along,
there would have been serious brain damage, at least."
The team effort that saved Trent
McCleary's life that night is present every day at the
Cedars Clinic, according to Dr Fleiszer. It's what he
"Everybody doing their job and
doing it in a coordinated way is what makes this clinic
function," he says. "There's no question it's all about
team. One of the lessons I learned on that championship
team, and throughout football, is the understanding
that you are one member of a team. If you do your part
really well and trust everyone to do theirs, then that's
what makes a champion."
IN THE FAMILY
During his playing days, Dr Fleiszer was listed at 6-foot-1,
185 pounds and his frame isn't much different today.
He continues to follow Canadian football ("I don't have
time to follow the NFL") and pays particular attention
to a certain Number 34 from the Edmonton Eskimos. That's
his son, Tim, a 6-foot-3, 266-pound defensive end who
graduated from Harvard. It's therefore no surprise to
hear Dr Fleiszer pick the Eskimos to win this year's
Grey Cup on November 27.
"It's not an objective pick," he
But it is a surprise that this
Alou-ettes season ticket holder eschews his hometown
team and picks the Toronto Argonauts to face the Esks
in the championship game. That's the height of objectivity
in light of the troubles with the Alouettes defence
Though he now leaves the full contact
football to his son, Dr Flei-szer has had three occasions
to throw the pigskin around with his old teammates.
The last was at their team reunion in Banff about a
"We've had several really good
reunions," he says. "Ten years ago in Banff we were
only missing three or four guys from the team. That
speaks to the kind of individuals we had and the team
As for football? "We've had a touch
football game at each reunion," he says, adding, "It's
getting slower and slower each time."
He looks at the time. Gotta run.