Marc-Andre Fleury has reached the end of his Career as a Pittsburgh Penguin. Honestly, that still doesn’t roll off the tongue right, nor does it flow from the fingertips as I type this. It just seems, weird.
On Tuesday night, Fleury attended his final autograph signing as a Penguin at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Cranberry, Pa., located just down the road from the Penguins’ practice facility. He was greeted by a store full of fans wanting to catch a final glimpse of the 14-year veteran netminder and fan favorite. One fan arrived at 9:30 pm the night before the event and slept on the sidewalk to ensure he received his wristband — one of only 250 available — giving him an opportunity to bid farewell to his hero. Others weren’t far behind, and according to a representative from IMG, the agency that organized the event, they turned down roughly 300 people the morning of the signing. At one point, she counted 480 folks in line. Are you even the least bit surprised?
“I’m glad people remember me as a good person, not just a goalie”, Fleury stated as he gracefully addressed the media as he so often does. Roughly 24 hours from the expansion draft that will pry him away from his home of the last 14 years, yet there he was. Talking to us, and signing autographs for fans. Fleury was given an oversized card that each fan who accrued a wristband wrote a personalized message on, as the staff thanked him for providing everyone this opportunity.
He’ll be remembered as a good person, indeed.
Marc-Andre Fleury’s Future
I asked Fleury if he’s contacted ex-teammates — namely James Neal, who the Nashville Predators left exposed for Wednesday night’s draft — about the possibility of playing together again. “Yeah”, he said. “There’s still so much up in the air, both of us don’t know what’s going to happen”, Fleury continued.
But is there really that much still up in the air?
It’s almost a lock that he’ll be selected by the Las Vegas Golden Knights, as the Penguins are reportedly sending a draft pick to Vegas to ensure this happens, but the NHL and general managers around the league have been tight-lipped this week. So, until it’s done, there will be a tiny bit of uncertainty. TSN Insider Bob McKenzie reported this morning that Fleury is believed to be attending the draft, which will take place during the NHL’s award show, and will be introduced at the event when selected. The Golden Knights will almost certainly view him as the face of their franchise, which Bob also alluded to. Fleury’s name, reputation, and his relationship with fans is why it’s been hard to imagine they go a different direction in the draft, despite quite a few cheaper options exposed. Vegas — as a new team looking to build excitement and a steady fan base — needs an iconic figure.
Fleury, BTW, expected to be on hand/introduced during NHL Awards show. As I said Tuesday, he strikes me as likely face of VGK franchise.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 21, 2017
Everything about Fleury’s demeanor indicated he’s at peace with what’s happening. It’s common, really, and while he mentioned that it won’t feel real until training camp starts next season, he seems mentally prepared to take the next step in his career. He laughed when Dan Kingerski, covering the event for 93.7-The Fan, asked if he’d begun preparing trash talk for his former teammates next season. In general, the mood was light and Fleury smiled the entire time.
His legacy is cemented in Pittsburgh as the franchise’s winningest goalie, a three-time Stanley Cup Champion and arguably the most kind hearted professional athlete to call this city home. He went out on top — despite not starting in goal to close things out in the postseason — and his last lap as a Penguin was with the Stanley Cup above his head. Great things happen to great people.
Au Revoir, Flower.