How ironic that the face of the franchise hides behind a mask.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who will be the Golden Knights’ starting goaltender in the team’s inaugural NHL season, welcomes the celebrity that has been given him by the expansion team’s fan base even though he was never seeking it.
From the moment his name was announced June 21 late in the NHL expansion draft at T-Mobile Arena with the news being greeted by a standing ovation from more than 10,000 fans, Fleury has become the most identifiable member of the Knights.
“It’s been fine,” Fleury said. “I want to show my passion for the game, and I want to connect with our fans and help grow the game in Las Vegas.”
Fleury has settled in quickly. He purchased the home of former NHLer Sheldon Souray in Southern Highlands. He has done promotional work for the team and the league, including appearing on NBC’s “Today” show last month wearing his Golden Knights home jersey. The day after the expansion draft, Fleury was participating in a street hockey clinic outside T-Mobile.
It’s only a matter of time before you see Fleury on television doing commercials for local businesses.
“It’s been great,” he said of the reception he has received. “But it’s a big challenge being part of something new like this. It’s not something I’ve been through before.”
Fleury won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009, 2016 and 2017). He was not the face of the franchise there. That honor went to Sidney Crosby, but he was a beloved member of the Penguins, both by the fan base and by his teammates in the locker room.
But the Penguins had their goalie of the future in Matt Murray. Fleury still saw himself as a starting goalie in the NHL. And through a series of negotiations with the Penguins, he agreed to be left unprotected in the expansion draft and was selected by the Knights.
He has his rings, so he’s not worried about maybe never getting another chance to win a Stanley Cup. He’s not, however, going to roll over and allow a culture of losing to permeate the locker room.
“Every guy here wants to win,” he said. “We know where we’re at, but we won’t accept losing. I think we’re all gonna try hard, work hard at getting points, getting wins and getting close as a team to building this franchise. We’re still looking at winning some games.”
It’s that kind of attitude that endears Fleury to the fans and gets respect from his teammates. In the NHL, goalies are not allowed to serve as captains. Fleury wouldn’t be a natural to wear the “C” but still can act like a leader.
“We have a lot of young guys,” he said. “Anything I can do to help them I’m glad to do.”
Fleury will team with Calvin Pickard to form the Knights’ goaltending tandem. Both are looking forward to working together and give the team stability in net.
“Yeah, it’s good to have him here,” Fleury said of Pickard. “He’s a very good goalie, and I’m sure we can learn from each other. You’re always trying to learn in this game.”
In his 13-year NHL career, Fleury has 375 wins, a 2.58 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and 44 shutouts. He turns 33 in late November but shows no signs of slowing down.
“I’m excited to be here,” he said. “It’s all very new, but it’s also so nice. The guys in the room, the staff that we have, the facilities that we have, everything has been awesome. It’s up to us to have a good camp here and have a good show on the ice.”