After a lengthy battle with a rare form of breast cancer, Andi Lambert, wife of Washington Capitals assistant coach Lane Lambert, died on Sept. 16, the day before training camp opened. She was 45 years old. Coach Barry Trotz revealed the news Sunday afternoon following practice at the team’s facility, after many members of the organization attended the funeral services near Cleveland on Saturday.

“I know he has a lot on his plate and I know it meant a lot to him for us to be there and support him, and to remember Andi the way we all know her and love her,” said Trotz, who worked beside Lambert with the Nashville Predators and later brought him onto his staff here in Washington. He added that several former colleagues in Nashville, including  a handful of players, also flew to Cleveland to pay their respects.

Lane and Andi first met in 1998, not long after doctors diagnosed her with recurrent malignant phyllodes, which according to an article on the Predators’ Web site accounts for less than 1 percent of all breast tumors. From the story:

“I thought, ‘Is he going to stick around?’ ” Andi recalled.
So she just said it.
“By the way, I have breast cancer,” she told him with a smile. “There’s your out. You can choose to call me or not.”
Not only did Lane Lambert call, he became the strongest shoulder she could ever wish for.
Just three months after dating, he took her to surgery, went to hockey practice, and came back to the hospital to sit with her family. Some bad news had been learned. The cancer had come back. She needed more surgery. Lambert remained at the hospital, spent nights there with her.

By the time that article was published four years ago, Andi was readying for her 17th surgery, a number that only grew as she continued to fight.

“She was always others first and she had a fire in her that was undeniable,” Trotz said. “That’s why anybody who met her, came across her, you loved her, because she had a lot of challenges over the course of her lifetime and she was the last person to feel pity for herself. When we had a bad game or were feeling sorry for ourselves, Andi was the one that said wake up and get going here and quit feeling sorry for yourself.”

A former forward who spent 283 games in the NHL with three teams in the mid-1980s, Lambert joined Trotz in Nashville’s organization as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Admirals in the American Hockey League, eventually rising to head coach and later an assistant with the Predators. He and Andi had a daughter together, Samantha, and were married on July 19, 2001. Lambert rejoined his colleagues for several preseason practices last week, but was not present Sunday.

“We miss her,” Trotz said. “We love her and we’ll continue to be a family. We just had a setback. We’ll continue to embrace Lane’s family and when he gets back to work here, which he came in last week a few times, he’s ready to go. He’s very prepared and outstanding in what he does. Until he gets back, we’ll miss him, but we understand.”