Marc-Andre Fleury officially said goodbye to the city of Pittsburgh.
The Golden Knights’ new goalie penned a heartfelt tribute to his former home Monday via The Players’ Tribune, reflecting on the last 14 years and saying they “were beyond my wildest dreams.”
“Saying that the last few weeks have been bittersweet would be an understatement. As we reached the Stanley Cup finals, I knew very well that my time as a Penguin was nearing its end,” Fleury said. “I love to play. I love the game, and everything about it. Putting the mask on, diving around, stopping the puck, feeling the intensity of the game, feeling useful. I wish I could have been in net for my last game as a Penguin. But we raised the Cup, again, and it made all the sacrifices worthy.”
Fleury was drafted No. 1 overall by the Penguins 14 years ago in Nashville, the same city he won his last Stanley Cup, and third overall, with Pittsburgh. Fourteen years later to the day since being drafted, the Golden Knights drafted Fleury in the expansion draft, essentially making him the face of the NHL’s newest franchise.
“I remember my first training camp, in September 2003, like it was yesterday,” he said. “I was so nervous. There are so many expectations on a first-round pick, and I didn’t want to let anybody down. I just tried to do my best, and wanted to leave a good impression. But when you face Mario Lemieux in training camp, it can be quite intimidating, to say the least.
“Everyone knows him as Le Magnifique, a hockey legend. I always loved watching him growing up. I remember the first time I stopped Mario in practice. It was a simple warmup shot. But you better believe that I kept that puck.”
Fleury called Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings one of the best moments of his career. He made 23 saves on 24 shots as the Penguins won 2-1, capturing the first of three cups in eight seasons. He will return to Pittsburgh Feb. 6, this time as the opposition, when the Golden Knights play the Penguins.
“And now here I am. I have a wife, two kids, and three Cups. I’m talking about my memories and saying my goodbyes,” Fleury said. “I don’t know how it will feel when I set foot in the PPG Paints Arena in February as the Vegas goaltender. Truthfully, right now I can’t even think about it. But what I do know is that I will be thrilled to see you all again.
“Thanks, Pittsburgh. I will miss you.”