After watching and covering Marc-Andre Fleury for five seasons now, I honestly can’t say enough about him as both a player and a person – so I won’t get into it here, otherwise we’d be here all night – and neither can his teammates here in Pittsburgh. They’re always vocal about how much they love and respect the always-smiling ‘Flower,’ and deservedly so.
However, after talking with Matt Murray today, I realized that Fleury maybe doesn’t get enough credit for the impact he has on the younger goalies in the organization. We always ask the other prospects what it’s like to share a locker room with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but for some reason, I never really thought to ask guys like Murray, Tristan Jarry or Sean Maguire about Fleury.
Because Fleury is such a kid at heart I think sometimes it can be easy to forget that he’s the longest-tenured Penguin on the roster and has been in this league since 2003. The now 30-year-old netminder has been through so much in his pro career, and that experience combined with his incredible personality makes him the perfect role model for kids in the pipeline.
They absolutely look up to him, and when we did a Periscope interview with Murray earlier today, something he said about that stood out to me. Murray mentioned that after his incredible first pro season, which included being named the American Hockey League’s goalie of the year and rookie of the year, he was sitting on his couch when his phone lit up with a message.
“It said, ‘hey, this is Marc-Andre Fleury,’ and I was kind of in shock,” Murray said. “He somehow got my number and sent me a text, which meant a lot to me, because he’s been an idol of mine since I was a kid. That just goes to show how nice of a guy he is, really.”
It was really cool to see what an impact that had on Murray. Having the Pens' Stanley Cup-winning franchise goaltender telling you congratulations and that he's proud of you is pretty awesome. But it’s not just gestures like that one that make these kids look up to him. They get to spend a few weeks at a time with him during training camp each year, and Murray said Fleury has been particularly helpful in terms of being someone he can rely on for advice and guidance.
“He’s great to have around,” Murray said. “Anytime I’m with him, I’m always asking him stuff. I’m sure he gets annoyed by my questions, but yeah, he’s unbelievable.”