You remember the old George Strait tune, ‘Here for a Good Time.’ That’s how I’ll remember the eight months that Marc-André Fleury spent with the Chicago Blackhawks. I wasn’t sure what to expect when the Chicago Blackhawks traded for the reigning Vezina winner last July. The Blackhawks were supposed to be rebuilding. They had been allegedly undertaking that process for a couple of years. But that wasn’t the case in what we’ll remember as Stan Bowman’s last stand in Chicago.
The Flower’s arrival wasn’t the smoothest transition. Fleury was blind-sided by Vegas, basically giving him away to the Blackhawks for salary cap relief, a move that he found out about on Twitter like the rest of us shmucks. Naturally, the 37-year-old netminder took some time to ponder his future, contemplating retirement. Why not? I’m a father; I empathize entirely with his reluctance to uproot his family and move them nearly 2,000 miles.
Fleury ultimately landed on moving his wife and three children to Chicago. While his time in Chicago was short and ultimately unsuccessful for the Blackhawks, I’ll always be grateful that the future Hall of Famer decided to suit up for my favorite franchise this season.
The Blackhawks stunk it up from the first night of the season when the Colorado Avalanche blew the doors off them on opening night on national television. Still, Marc-André Fleury gave Blackhawks fans a reason to keep tuning in. Through a historically bad start, the release of the Jenner & Block Report that rocked the franchise and fan base alike, the dismissal of Stan Bowman and Jeremy Colliton, and a painstakingly long season filled with rumors of the Blackhawks looking to offload him before today’s trade deadline – Marc-André Fleury carried himself like a consummate professional.
Seth Jones called him one of the best teammates he’s ever played with.
“He’s definitely one of the best teammates I’ve played with. He cares so much. He’s always got something nice to say, something good to say, something positive to say even when times are tough.”
Derek King said that he’d like to keep Flower around forever, and Dylan Strome called him one of the most incredible teammates he’s ever had at any level of hockey.
“He’s unbelievable,” Strome said last week. “Vezina Trophy winner for a reason. Without him, we’re not in a lot of these games. He’s a heck of a goalie, probably Team Canada goalie I’d say. … One of the best teammates I’ve ever had, for sure.”
Kyle Davidson said that Fleury is one of the best people in hockey, and that’s why Davidson honored the handshake agreement that Fleury struck with Stan Bowman last summer that allowed Fleury to be in control of his destiny.
Inside the locker room, the Blackhawks were graced with the presence of an all-time great human being in a game that so desperately needs those. On the ice, the Blackhawks fan base was graced with the presence of a future Hall of Famer and a necessary distraction that they needed so much this year.
We were lucky enough to watch Fleury become the third goaltender in NHL history to eclipse the 500-win plateau, joining his idols Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy. We were lucky enough to watch Fleury make jaw-dropping save after draw-dropping save while giving an underwhelming Blackhawks team a shot at winning night in and night out.
Fleury even did the Blackhawks a favor on his way out, agreeing to a trade that would send him to Minnesota, an idea that he never seemed sold on in the first place, and allowed Kyle Davidson a conditional second-round draft pick that will help the Blackhawks rebuild as a parting gift of sorts for Chicago fans.
Sometimes we lose sight of the human component of sports when we become lost in the business side of things, especially when our focus is on a rebuilding team that’s chief task is to stockpile future assets. We shouldn’t forget that we were graced with the presence of one of the greatest NHL players ever, both on and off the ice this season.
Marc-André Fleury may have only donned a Blackhawks sweater 45 times in his brief time in Chicago, but he was a treat to watch. Thanks, Flower, and best of luck in Minnesota!