CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Marc-Andre Fleury says he is both flattered and touched by the outpouring from fans over what is likely his last days as goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The last few weeks have been emotional for Fleury. Between winning the Stanley Cup again, a record-breaking number of fans at the victory parade, and now, saying goodbye to a city he’s called his second home.
UNCUT VIDEO: Fleury’s Full News Conference —
Fleury says he’s grateful for this transition period and the time to reach out to the community. He says he’s happy he’ll be remembered as more than just a goalie.
“This is like my home. It’ll be tough, but I know what’s coming… and I’m glad people will remember me as a good person, not just a goalie, and I think that’s important for me, too,” he said during a press conference before a final meet and greet with fans at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Cranberry.
Hundreds of fans lined up for the opportunity, but only 250 got in.
“Oh my gosh! I was trying to savor every moment cause they were just like keep going, keep going, but I was able to tell him thank you,” said Rebecca Polinski, from New Kensington.
She and Rich Webb, of Pitcairn, were two of those 250 fans.
“It’s not just he’s a great hockey player, but how he does with the community and the kids,” Webb said.
At one point, Tuesday morning, the line wrapped around the outside of the store.
“It’s been a little crazy,” said Fleury. “I think wherever I go; people have been great to me. I’ll always say hi, take a picture or something. They all have very kind words. It’s definitely a little emotional, but it’s very flattering.”
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The smiling goaltender says he was worried at the trade deadline at the end of winter, but is thrilled he got to spend more time with his teammates. And the back-to-back championship end to the season will be a memory that will last a lifetime.
“So many talks at the trade deadline, and I was thinking, you know, you leave at mid-afternoon from your hotel, you don’t see anybody and you’re going to your new team,” Fleury said, “so I’m very happy I had the chance to take my last lap with my jersey on with the Cup in my hand, and having a few days, a few weeks to be in Pittsburgh and thank people.”
Outside the rink, Fleury says some of his favorite spots for him and his family in and around the city are the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and North Park.
But nothing means more to him than his teammates, having success with them and bringing championships to the fans.
“I love the game, I love playing hockey, and I’m very fortunate to be doing that for a living and I’ve had a great time in Pittsburgh. My kids were born here, so many memories from a lot of teammates, good people we met and I’m glad we had some success in winning some Stanley Cups, and I think that’s really important for me, the success of the team,” Fleury said.
While he waits to find out his next destination, it might be time to think up some trash talk for his black-and-gold teammates. But he says it won’t really hit him until the new season begins and he’s putting on another team’s jersey.
“I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve been busy, but that could be coming up soon. I think it still won’t feel real until next season or next training camp when I don’t come back here,” he said.
But one thing’s for certain, this is a goodbye that is not an easy one, for the fans and for Fleury himself.