PITTSBURGH — To contend a night of Feb. 6 was an romantic one for Marc-Andre Fleury would be an understatement.
It was a Golden Knights goaltender’s lapse to a city where he was drafted 15 years ago, a initial time he played during PPG Paints Arena in a visitor’s jersey. The Penguins played a reverence video before a diversion to a goalie who helped win 3 Stanley Cups, and proceeded to kick Fleury and a Knights, 5-4. Fleury finished 33 saves.
What Jim Rutherford remembers about that night was what happened after a game. The Penguins’ ubiquitous manager took his 10-year-old son James into a Vegas sauce room to accommodate Fleury, and a former Pittsburgh goalie spent all a time with James that Rutherford could have hoped for.
“You can always speak about people when they’re on a high note and they’ve won 5 in a quarrel and all a good things and you’re a initial star of a game, though this was a tough night for Marc-Andre Fleury,” Rutherford said. “His appearance and celebrity never changed. He took that time, and finished certain that James came into a room to see him.
“I will always remember that. Of march it touches me tighten given it’s family, though not a lot of athletes will do what he did that night.”
Rutherford’s indebtedness is echoed by a city. Fleury has not been a Penguin in scarcely a year, and a Knights will enter a Stanley Cup Final on Monday representing Fleury’s third uninterrupted trip, though initial and usually though a Penguins sweater.
There’s no sourness from Pittsburgh. They wish him to win.
“He’s finished his approach into a fabric of this city,” Penguins and Steelers season-ticket hilt Bill Diamond said.
A discerning turnaround
Pittsburgh finished Fleury a first-overall preference in a 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Evgeni Malkin went second altogether in 2004, and Sidney Crosby went initial in 2005. The Penguins finished fifth in a Atlantic Division 4 true times, not remotely imitative a dynastic squads of late.
After Crosby’s rookie year, a Pens have not missed a postseason in any year since, and won Stanley Cups in 2009, 2016 and 2017, with Fleury as a primary goaltender in 2009 and personification pivotal playoff array in 2017.
That’s to say, it’s tough to magnitude a significance of those 3 players to Pittsburgh hockey.
“I remember when he was drafted, everybody was like this chosen goaltender is going to make a change in Pittsburgh,” Pittsburgh-area clergyman Bill Majeski said. “Then Crosby and Malkin come in and we start saying this spin around, and it was a discerning turnaround.
“Him and (Matt) Murray are a reason since we won a Stanley Cup. Crosby and them of course, and all a additions, though if we don’t have a goaltending you’re not going to get it.”
Pens fans had seen a essay on a wall for months and knew what would happen. Fleury had a story of concussions, he was good over a wrong side of 30-years-old, he had a high income and of march they had Murray: a 24-year-old who was a primary goalie for dual true Cup wins. So when an enlargement organisation came around, there was usually one option.
Fleury was left unprotected, and on Jun 21 Vegas and finished him a highest-profile collect in a enlargement draft.
“At initial it was formidable when they initial motionless to not strengthen him in a enlargement draft,” internal high propagandize hockey manager Louis Pessolano said. “It was a business move, it was a right move.”
That doesn’t make it most easier. Pessolano was in a building for Fleury’s lapse to Pittsburgh, and it all came rushing back.
“There were really some battery eyes in a crowd,” Pessolano said. “It was a good send-off.”
Off a ice
Of march usually about each city has a star contestant to convene around on a margin of play. But Fleury has finished himself famous around Pittsburgh for some-more than adorned saves.
Last June, Fleury and his mother Veronique non-stop and financed a new six-figure stadium during a Boys Girls Club in circuitously McKees Rocks. He was concerned in a process, seeking ways to make it as good as it can be instead of usually slicing a check.
When he was comparison by Vegas, he donated 25 of his nicest suits to a maestro care group. One time on a prolonged highway outing he had his teammates collect a toiletries from a hotel bedrooms and donated them to a Ronald McDonald House.
“It was all this things over and above,” Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation boss Dave Soltesz said. “Through his reign he was usually amazing. On a ice and in a community, no doubt about that.
“He’s a special individual.”
Though a timing of a opening competence seem as if it was a farewell present to Pittsburgh, Soltesz stressed it was not any arrange of bequest project. It had been designed years in advance, and he wanted to make certain a plan was finished right, regardless of if he was a Penguin or a Golden Knight.
It’s a kind of thing that catches a eyes of fans.
“It was already paid for. It was already built. Nobody was going to hatred him for not display up,” Pessolano said. “In a city in and a city that he no longer technically plays for. And that shows a lot about a chairman that he is, a genuine chairman that he is, not usually a hockey player.”
Love for Flower
The city is dirty with anecdotes about a adore for Fleury.
Diamond’s son Andrew was a goalie as a girl actor given of Fleury. A Lyft motorist named Michael pronounced he’ll be examination a Final given of a male between a pipes (and to base opposite a Capitals). A clergyman named Kelly believes a Penguins would still be in a playoffs if Fleury were in net. A program developer named Michael jokes that Vegas stole their goalie and that he keeps tabs on a Knights.
A Dick’s Sporting Goods worker named Dajon pronounced he gets asked all a time if a emporium carries Knights gear. Within a final dual weeks, a store has started stocking it to accommodate a demand, a usually attire from non-Pittsburgh teams it carries (excluding a NBA, where Pittsburgh does not have a team).
Throw in that a Knights are assembly a Capitals in a Final, a organisation that separated a Pens from a postseason, and Pittsburgh’s rooting seductiveness is clear. Residents of steel city competence not be chanting “Go Knights Go,” though that doesn’t meant they won’t feel a hold of complacency if their aged goalie raises a Cup on a Strip.
“Everyone is pulling for him,” Pessolano said. “He’s a good person. we consider a lot of a city is examination Vegas games as if they were Penguins games.”
Contact Justin Emerson during email@example.com or (702) 387-2944. Follow @J15Emerson on Twitter.