Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury works to put Penguins in past
When his Vegas Golden Knights arrived at PPG Paints Arena for practice Monday afternoon, Marc-Andre Fleury admitted he found it strange heading down the hallway to the visiting team's locker room.
“Definitely weird,” Fleury said. “So used to going in the other locker room and having my little routine here.”
That wasn't the only time Fleury had trouble putting his time with the Penguins in the past Monday. In fact, he had to keep reminding himself he can no longer use the present tense when discussing his tenure in black and gold.
Take, for example, what he said when asked if there was anything in his career that could prepare him for the emotions he will face Tuesday night.
“It's different from everything,” Fleury said. “The game in Vegas, played against them, I guess I got a little taste of playing against friends and teammates — ex-teammates, I should say.”
Later, he talked about what kind of video tribute he expected the Penguins would have in store for him.
“Every time we have — or, had — an old teammate coming in, it just brings back memories over the years, some things you forget,” Fleury said. “Fun times. Looking forward to it.”
Yep, better stick with the past tense there.
The minor gaffes are understandable, of course, given how synonymous Fleury became with the Penguins during his 14-year stay with the organization.
And just like Fleury is no ordinary ex-Penguin making his return, the media horde surrounding his locker Monday wasn't ordinary either.
A pack of several dozen reporters crowded six-deep around Fleury's stall, hoping to ask a question or record a soundbite. It was the size of the scrums that develop around Sidney Crosby in the late stages of a Stanley Cup Final.
Former Penguins winger James Neal's seat in the Vegas locker room is directly to Fleury's right. In a savvy veteran move, Neal was undressed and cleared out before reporters entered the room.
Winger Brendan Leipsic wasn't as lucky. Seated two spots down from Fleury, he had to run an obstacle course of cameras and microphones just to hang up his gear.
Fleury patiently answered questions on a variety of topics during a seven-minute session, ranging from Vegas' strong start to when he wanted to receive his Stanley Cup ring from Penguins owner Mario Lemieux.
Fleury chose the morning skate in an effort to keep things calm once he returned to the rink for the game in the evening.
“I'm sure the game will be crazy, too, in my head, thinking about stuff,” Fleury said. “I just wanted to have a little less to do.”
Fleury said he knows there will be more ballyhoo surrounding his return than any standard regular-season game. He doesn't want to ignore it, though. He wants to embrace it.
“I don't think I want to block everything out, either,” Fleury said. “It's going to be a special moment for me, playing the first game back here. I want to remember it, remember my time here.”