Marc-André Fleury (born November 28, 1984) is a French Canadian professional ice hockey goaltender playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League (NHL). Drafted out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) first overall by the Penguins in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Fleury played major junior for four seasons with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, earning both the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s top prospect and the Telus Cup as the top defensive player in 2003. He joined the Penguins in 2003–04 and won a Stanley Cup championship with the team five years later in 2009. Internationally, Fleury has represented Canada twice as a junior, winning back-to-back silver medals at the World Junior Championships in 2003 and 2004. He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Fleury is known by the nickname “Flower,” derived from the English translation of his last name (fleuri is “in bloom,” or “in Flower,” in French). His goaltender masks always feature a fleur-de-lys on the backplate (in addition to the initials EFGT, honoring his four grandparents in memoriam), and have frequently featured some sort of flower on the front artwork, as well.
Fleury played major junior in the QMJHL for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, beginning in 2000–01. After a strong 2002–03 campaign that included a silver medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships and QMJHL Second Team All-Star honours, he was chosen first overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is only the third goalie to be chosen first overall in the NHL draft, after Michel Plasse and Rick DiPietro. Playing four seasons total with Cape Breton, Fleury’s jersey number 29 was later retired by the club in his fourth NHL season on January 25, 2008.
Fleury immediately made his NHL debut in 2003–04 as the youngest goaltender in the league at 18 years old (three years less than the second-youngest, Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders). He appeared in his first NHL game on October 10, 2003, against the Los Angeles Kings, recording an impressive 46-save performance, which included a penalty shot save, in a 3–0 loss. Fleury recorded his first NHL win in his very next start, on October 18, with 31 saves in a 4–3 win over the Detroit Red Wings. His first NHL shutout came on October 30, in a 1–0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Fleury shared time with goaltenders Jean-Sébastien Aubin and Sebastien Caron and lived up to first-overall-pick expectations early, earning Rookie of the Month honours in October with a 2–2–2 record, 1.96 goals against average (GAA) and .943 save percentage. However, as the season progressed, his performance began to sink, mainly due to Pittsburgh’s poor defense. The team regularly gave up over 30 shots per game, and rarely managed to become an offensive threat. He was loaned to Team Canada for the 2004 World Junior Championships in December and, upon returning with a second consecutive silver medal, he was sent back to the QMJHL on January 29, 2004. In light of financial difficulties for the franchise, it is believed Fleury’s $3 million contract bonus, which he would have potentially received if he stayed and met several performance goals, was a factor in the decision to return him to Cape Breton. To no avail, Fleury offered to forfeit his bonus in order to remain with the club. Fleury finished the QMJHL season with Cape Breton in a first round elimination and was subsequently assigned to Pittsburgh’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and appeared in 2 post-season games.
As NHL play was postponed on account of the labour dispute, Fleury continued to play with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2004–05, where he posted a 26–19–4 record, a 2.52 GAA and a .901 save percentage. When NHL play resumed in 2005–06, Fleury started the season once more in the minors, but was quickly called up by Pittsburgh for a game against the Buffalo Sabres on October 10 to replace an injured Jocelyn Thibault. He continued to play between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Pittsburgh until November 28, after which he remained with Pittsburgh. With the Penguins finishing last in the Eastern Conference and allowing a league-worst 316 goals, Fleury recorded a 3.25 GAA and a .898 save percentage. Competing for time with Sebastien Caron and Jocelyn Thibault, Fleury emerged as the Penguins’ starting goalie.
Despite playing behind a shaky defense, Fleury was able to impress the team management with his technique and performance and signed a two-year contract extension worth $2.59 million in the off-season. In the proceeding campaign, Fleury’s stats improved significantly. Playing behind a better Penguins team, which featured rising superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he recorded 5 shutouts and a 2.83 GAA. He earned his 40th win in a 2–1 victory over the New York Rangers in the season finale, joining Tom Barrasso as the only Penguins goaltenders to record 40 wins in a season. He also broke Johan Hedberg‘s single season franchise record for most games and minutes played. Fleury made his NHL playoff debut against the Ottawa Senators, the eventual Stanley Cup finalists, in the first round and recorded his first playoff win in Game 2, recording 34 saves in a 4–3 win at Scotiabank Place. Fleury was credited with strong performances in the series,[by whom?] but the Penguins were eliminated in five games.2007–08
Fleury started the 2007–08 season slowly, then won four straight games before suffering a high-ankle sprain against the Calgary Flames on December 6. He returned as a starter on March 2, after a brief conditioning stint in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. While sidelined, he decided to change the colour of his goaltending equipment from the bright yellow that had become his signature to plain white, in order to gain an optical advantage over shooters. He was also influenced and challenged by the very strong play of Ty Conklin, who took the team’s starting job after being promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Fleury’s absence. Upon his return from injury, Fleury helped the Penguins win the Atlantic Division, going 10–2–1 with a 1.45 GAA en route to a 12–2 playoff run to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. He recorded perhaps the best performance of his career at the time in Game 5 of the Finals at Detroit, where he stopped 55 of 58 shots in a triple overtime win for the Penguins to stave off elimination. Possibly the most memorable save he made came in the second period against Mikael Samuelsson – where he barely got a toe on the puck to keep Pittsburgh in the game, which Petr Sykora eventually ended. Despite his strong play, the Penguins lost the series in six games, and Fleury’s unfortunate attempt to cover an unseen loose puck by sitting on it in Game 6 resulted in him propelling the puck into the net; the own goal turned out to be the Stanley Cup-winner, credited to Henrik Zetterberg. “The one where I sat on it?” he said. “Oh yeah. (Expletive) yeah. That stunk.” However, he would recover by the start of the following season:
Fleury completed the playoffs with 3 shutouts – a new team record for one playoff season – and a 14–6 record. His .933 save percentage was also tops in the playoffs. In the off-season, Fleury signed a seven-year, US$35 million contract with the Penguins, on July 3. It included a no-movement clause, and a limited no-trade clause that triggers in the 2010–2011 NHL season.
Marc-André Fleury with the Stanley Cup at the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Parade on June 15, 2009.
Fleury compiled a 35–18–7 record in 2008–09 to help the Penguins to a fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference, entering the 2009 playoffs as the defending Prince of Wales champions. Fleury was a major factor in the first round against the Penguins’ intrastate rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. In Game 2 at home, with a 2–1 deficit late in the third, Fleury made a key toe save against Flyers top goal scorer Jeff Carter which was eventually pivotal as the Penguins tied the game late in the 3rd and won late in overtime. After the Flyers won Game 3 comfortably, Fleury once again stole a game for the Penguins in Game 4, stopping 43 shots to keep a surging Flyers lineup at bay and ensure a 3–1 lead. The Flyers won in Pittsburgh in Game 5, but Fleury saved another performance for the final period of Game 6. After initially letting in 3 goals, Fleury did not allow another as the Penguins rallied from a 3–0 deficit to win 5–3. The Penguins went the full distance in the second round against the Washington Capitals. In the deciding game seven, Fleury made a key breakaway glove save early in the contest against Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin, helping the Penguins eliminate Washington by a 6–2 score. Fleury and the Penguins then swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Finals to return to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings for the second consecutive year. After being pulled in game five after allowing 5 goals, Fleury made another momentous breakway save in game six, this time with 1:39 minutes left in regulation against Dan Cleary to preserve a 2–1 lead and help the Penguins force a game seven. Playing the series-deciding game in Detroit, Fleury played an integral role in the Penguins 2–1 victory to capture the franchise’s third Stanley Cup, making two critical saves in the final seconds. After stopping an initial Henrik Zetterberg shot from the right faceoff circle, the rebound came loose to Nicklas Lidstrom at the left faceoff circle, forcing Fleury to make a diving stop with 1.5 seconds remaining to preserve the win and the championship.
Fleury recorded a 37-21-6 record during the 2009–10 NHL season, as the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins would again finish fourth in the Eastern Conference. After dispatching Ottawa in six games, the Penguins would eventually lose to the Montreal Canadiens in seven, ending any chance of a Stanley Cup repeat. Fleury recorded a 2.78 goals against average during the Playoffs.
|Competitor for Canada|
|World Junior Championships|
Fleury won two silver medals with Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championships. He made his first appearance in 2003 in Halifax. Although Canada was defeated by Russia 3–2 in the gold medal game, Fleury posted a 1.57 GAA and was named the Top Goaltender and tournament MVP.
Although Fleury was playing in the NHL the next year leading up to the tournament, the Pittsburgh Penguins lent him to Team Canada. Fleury expressed a desire to remain with his NHL club, but Penguins management decided the high-profile tournament would be good for his development. He led Team Canada to the gold medal game for the second consecutive year, but made a costly mistake that lost his team the championship. With the game tied 3–3 with less than five minutes remaining in regulation, Fleury left his net to play the puck and avert a breakaway opportunity for Patrick O’Sullivan of Team USA. However, Fleury’s clearing attempt hit his own defenceman, Braydon Coburn, and trickled into the net. Some say it is Cobourns fault as he redirected it in the net and wasnt more aware of the way play and didn’t attempt to get out of the way. This proved to be the difference, as the Americans held on for a 4–3 win.
On December 30, 2009, Fleury was named to Team Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He did not play in the tournament as the goaltending duties were split between Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo, but still received a gold medal as Canada defeated the United States 3–2 in the final.
Fleury was born to André and France Fleury in Sorel, Québec, a small town near Montréal. He has one sibling, his younger sister Marylene. When he was first drafted, he lived with Mario Lemieux for a brief period of time as he searched for more permanent living arrangements. He currently resides in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.