From Cape Breton to Vegas: NHL player with N.S. ties aims for 2021 Stanley Cup
SYDNEY -- It's been more than 20 years since Marc-Andre Fleury first strapped on his hockey pads in Sydney, N.S., but his ties to the island run deeper than ever.
Since Fleury's time as a goaltender with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, he's had the pleasure of lifting the Stanley Cup three times.
Now, at the age of 36, Fleury's aiming to add a fourth ring to his collection as his team, the Vegas Golden Knights, makes a run for the cup.
"I still love to play, right, and when you love to do something, it doesn't feel like work," said Fleury in an interview with CTV Atlantic.
Fleury has just capped off one of the best regular seasons of his career.
Just before the 2021 playoffs started, he reached a big milestone – moving into third on the NHL’s all-time wins list.
Fleury now trails two of his childhood idols and hockey Hall of Famers, Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.
"You know, that's pretty heavy company that he's in. When you think of all the great goaltenders that have played in the National Hockey League," said Patrick MacDonald, the general manger of Sydney's Centre 200.
MacDonald says, while Fleury has come a long way since first showing up at Eagles training camp at 15 years old, he's still the same person he was over two decades ago.
"If he sees anything related to Cape Breton on someone, whether it's an old Screaming Eagles jersey, or anything related to Cape Breton, boy, he makes a point of reaching out somehow and getting in touch with those people," said MacDonald.
The Vegas strip is a long way from the Canso Causeway, but Fleury has remained close with his Cape Breton billets, Bob and Angela Hawkins.
"They were like my second family and they still are," explained Fleury.
Fleury also gained many hockey fans in Halifax when he backstopped Canada to a World Junior silver medal in the Halifax in 2003.
However, some say Fleury's humility and trademark smile is what endeared him to his Maritime fans.
"He would be at the rink at 11 o'clock at night, you know, making sure everyone had a picture or had something signed, or just a quick chat. He just would never say no to anybody," said MacDonald.
Today, Fleury is a father of three, and says he would love to be able to visit Cape Breton again once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
"The fans of Cape Breton have always been very supportive of me and always been very friendly to me and my family, and those are the things I'll always cherish," said Fleury.