No one, anywhere, can accurately predict what kind of professional career a junior hockey player will experience.
At the age of 16, Marc-Andre Fleury was no exception. His qualities were evident in the net. He had everything of future first choice in the draft. But who would have dared to suggest that he would one day be one of the greatest goalkeepers in NHL history?
Press Talked to two people who were close to him during these critical years of his development. And even when they nod their heads on the grounds of unpredictability, they argue that some signs do not lie.
Pascal Vincent coached the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles for the entire three seasons of the Flurry. It was clear that, at just 15 years old, with his first move to the QMJHL, the young man “gave himself every possible chance to succeed”.
He was a very humble man at that time and still is today because he creates history.
Pascal Vincent, Manitoba Moose (AHL) head coach and former coach of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
The current coach of the Manitoba Moose in the American League recalls that Fleury has always “been a good fellow, giving confidence to his group of players.” “People want to play in front of him,” he continued.
Recall that Marc-Andre Fleury, since Wednesday evening, is only fourth in the NHL for the number of wins in the regular season with 485. Only Roberto Luongo (489), Patrick Roy (551) and Martin Brodeur (661) are all on the Quebec’s list.
While Fleury has often described himself as “lucky” to have reached this level and played in the winning teams with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights, Pascal Vincent believes the goalkeeper to be the main Form was served by “ways of thinking in the face”. Of adversity “, ie” their way of showing people and proving to themselves that every day you can improve yourself “.
On the phone, Gilles Meloche apologizes for not giving us much time to deliver. When he learns the nature of the call, he turns away and adds that, anyway, he “won’t have enough time to talk about Marc-Andre Fleury”.
Meloche has been a recruiter for the Penguins for over 30 years. During the winter of 2002 and 2003, he recalled the route to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
“Even before his draft year, he was already pulling his teams on his back,” he recalls, who himself was a goalkeeper at the NHL in the 1970s and 1980s.
He was very positive … all we had to do was focus on his practice. He will remain on the ice until he is thwarted. Sometimes it could take 5, 10, 15 minutes to get it out of there!
It is also a feature that is still characteristic of Fleury almost two decades later. “He works hard all the time,” Pascal Vincent recalls. You watch his practice and you wonder how he will play the whole game, because he seems to have spent all his energy! ”
In 2003, Gilles Meloche convinced his bosses to get drafted first choice and to deal with the Florida Panthers to select Fleury.
However, for a player, the result of such a prestigious selection, with few exceptions, ends with a team in difficulty. Fleury was no exception: Penguins then passed through years of dying, and victories were rare in their early days. He made a detour to the American League before returning with the “Big Club”, then strengthened by the arrival of Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin.
Fleury’s reaction to adversity is obvious. In 2006–2007, he signed a 40 win season. Two years later, he lifted the Stanley Cup.
Two more cups await him in 2016 and 2017, but each time, he watches the final series from behind the bench. Unexpectedly, the Penguins failed to protect him in the 2017 summer expansion draft; The following spring, he led the stunning Golden Knights to the grand finale.
According to Pascal Vincent, it is the great power of Fleury’s character that paved the way for success.
“When things go bad, you need a good foundation; Of Marc-Andre, which has always been his work ethic, ”explains the coach.
He adds: “The test that happens in adverse conditions is your passion for what you do. This is true for any profession. Marc-Andre has a lot of talent, he is an extraordinary person. But one of his primary qualities is his passion for the game, to stop the puck. ”
Giles Meloche, who also coached goalkeepers with the Penguins from 1990 to 2013, agrees.
“I’ve worked in the NHL for 50 years, including 35 in Pittsburgh; I’ve never seen a man with the same attitude as him.”
After only one year of working with him, “we knew the results would be at the end of the line.”
According to Pascal Vincent, this desire to win is probably the thread that connects Fleury to Luongo, Roy and Brodeur.
These are all people who succeed in competition, who excel in competition, who accept competition.
The fact that his former hero now joins the other three at the top of the NHL’s elite, strictly speaking, does not surprise him.
“But it makes me really proud,” he concluded.
In this account, he is far from being alone.
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