Less than 48 hours before Marc-Andre Fleury was traded to the Minnesota Wild during a hectic NHL Trade Deadline, he was sitting on the visitors’ bench at the Xcel Energy Center, taking the atmosphere in while he was still a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
This visit and game — where the Wild beat his now former team by a score of 3-1 — ended up being a massive influence on whether or not the future Hall-of-Fame goaltender would give Chicago the thumbs up and approve any sort of trade to the Wild.
“I knew it could be a possibility,” Fleury said when asked whether he knew a trade was coming while he was in St. Paul on Saturday, “but obviously it was nothing for sure at that time. But sitting there, looking around, the building was full, the crowd was into it. I think people really enjoy their hockey here, so it makes it fun for a player. When we come here, the building is always full and cheering for you, so it’s nice.”
Outside of actually being in the building and getting to play in front of Wild fans days before he would get traded there, Fleury also mentioned that since his new location is so close to Chicago, that it will make an easy transition for his family. Another geographical advantage the Wild finally have over some other teams.
Minnesota might not have the extravagance of a New York, but at least it’s where it is and some players are from here. And for the actual team itself, staying always competitive and having a real, true identity, obviously helps the player know what he’s walking into and Fleury is full of praises for this team.
“It’s a great team. I think they play a great, structured game,” he said. “They play well defensively, they’re heavy. I think they’re built for the playoffs. I think Billy [Guerin] did a great job putting this team together.”
Yeah, visiting the city beforehand and knowing the team is great and all, but the cherry on top of the negotiation sundae is simply having his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Bill Guerin be the one running this team. Guerin himself was a rental addition at the deadline for the Penguins all the way back in 2009, and ended up winning the Stanley Cup with Fleury and some other guys named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Fleury was just a 24-year-old starting netminder with less than 200 games played under his belt heading into that season, and now 13 years later, he is reunited with a familiar face to try and make a deep run in the post-season.
“Yes, obviously, I’ve known Billy for a while,” Fleury said laughing. “It was always nice to see him in the hallway and stuff, when we come visit. When I got on the first phone call with him after the trade to reassure me and all about the family stuff, he was awesome. Thinks like that, you can always rely on, so it’s good to be back on his team again.”
Who knows when Fleury will make his first start, but the Wild’s next game is Thursday against the surging Vancouver Canucks.