Penguins

Sunday’s Best: A bouquet of photographs

Before I covered the Penguins, I was a fan — especially of their goaltender.

Marc-Andre Fleury smiles while chatting with another Pittsburgh Penguins' legend. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Before I covered the Penguins, I was a fan — especially of their goaltender.

I grew up outside of Pittsburgh and I’ve played hockey since I learned how to skate. It would have been awfully hard to combine those two facts without being a Penguins’ fan, actually.

During what I consider my ‘peak fandom,’ I would find a way to the Igloo as many nights a year as possible to see as many games as possible regardless of the numbers dressed in black and gold — all for $20 a ticket as a student.

Of course, the good times were to see 66 and 68 with a flurry of 7’s and 10’s mixed in. But, my ‘Student Rush’ days were littered with Dick Tarnstroms, Ian Morans and Brad Werenkas. Regardless, I loved it.

I loved it even more, however, when I attended the 2003 season opener on October 10 and was a part of the crowd chanting ‘Fleury, Fleury, Fleury’ to the rhythm of rookie Marc-Andre Fleury’s pad saves against the Los Angeles Kings.

The modern day, three-time Stanley Cup champion Penguins are built on the backs of draft picks owed to the seasons played by the Tarnstrom and Werenka Penguins.

Of course, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two of the game’s biggest stars — the former among the best ever — and were the Penguins’ top picks in back-to-back seasons. Prior to the duo, though, came Fleury, a number one overall pick, and the beginning of an incredible era of Pittsburgh Penguins hockey.

Being drafted first overall as a goaltender is not a common occurrence, but extended periods of brilliance between 2003 and 2017 made it clear to see why the Penguins placed such value on Fleury. His athleticism and style of play allowed the stars in front of him to take chances and know there was someone capable of stealing a game on any given night behind them.

Now, that goalie is a Golden Knight, preparing to play his first season away from Pittsburgh and the first season for the expansion Las Vegas team.

Marc-Andre Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and the Penguins will miss him, the fans will miss him and I will miss him.

I won’t miss him as a fan any more, however. Those days are behind me, even though I hold the memory of attending his first start near to my hockey heart. I will, though, miss Mr. Fleury as a photographer who feels beyond fortunate to have photographed a season of a true Pittsburgh hockey legend.

Thanks for the photographs, Flower, and good luck.

A personal favorite — Fleury knocks the puck away from a scrum in the first round of the playoffs. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Marc-Andre Fleury waits in the crease ahead of the first playoff game of 2016-2017. After hearing of Matt Murray’s injury in the elevator, I needed to quickly send a photograph of Fleury — this was it. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

 

Marc-Andre Fleury allows a smile after his team takes control. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Marc-Andre Fleury tosses a stick into the crowd after being named the number one star. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Marc-Andre Fleury makes a sprawling save on a Marcus Johansson breakaway attempt. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

A wide-eyed Marc-Andre Fleury awaits a shot on goal. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Marc-Andre Fleury watches a youth netminder join him for the anthem. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Marc-Andre Fleury forces a puck wide with his left pad on a Reilly Smith attempt. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Marc-Andre Fleury takes his shirt off his back for a fan. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Marc-Andre Fleury kisses the Stanley Cup for the final time as a Pittsburgh Penguin. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Marc-Andre Fleury, daughter in hand, faces the media swarm on-ice after earning his third Stanley Cup. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

 

Marc-Andre Fleury takes a final parade ride through Pittsburgh after his third Stanley Cup win. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS