After processing shocking trade, Marc-Andre Fleury ‘excited now’ to join Blackhawks

“I never had anything against Chicago, the organization,” Fleury said Wednesday. “It was just me personally [deciding] what I wanted to do. I’ve talked to guys, and I keep hearing so many great things.”

SHARE After processing shocking trade, Marc-Andre Fleury ‘excited now’ to join Blackhawks

Marc-Andre Fleury spoke Wednesday for the first time since being traded to the Blackhawks.

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Marc-Andre Fleury, stunned initially by his trade to the Blackhawks, just needed time.

At 36, his life involves more now than Vezina Trophies and Stanley Cups and being a decorated NHL goaltender. It also revolves around his wife and his three young kids.

Having only switched teams once — and not via trade — in his 17-year career, the decision to uproot his family from Las Vegas required significantly more thought than the Golden Knights seemingly gave to dealing him away.

“I felt pretty lucky I didn’t have to move so many times, like a lot of guys have to do,” Fleury said Wednesday, measured yet earnest in his first public comments since the trade.

“It’s not an easy thing, right? It’s stressful. It’s a process to find somewhere comfortable for your family to be, a good school. There’s lots in [this situation to consider] for them. I’ve been lucky to play for a long time and have won, too. I can’t think about me all the time.”

He mulled it over five “good nights’ sleep.” He talked with his wife Veronique, former Penguins teammate-turned-current Hawks assistant Chris Kunitz, longtime goalie friend and former late-career Chicago transplant Cam Ward, Hawks captain Jonathan Toews and many others — a comprehensive cross-section of the connections the instantly likable, relatable Quebec native has made over his two decades in hockey.

And then he called Hawks general manager Stan Bowman on Sunday to say he was coming.

“I never had anything against Chicago, the organization,” Fleury said. “It was just me [deciding] personally what I wanted to do. I’ve talked to guys, and I keep hearing so many great things about the team and how they treat the players and the families. Stan did a great job, too, of getting some players over the summer, trying to make this team competitive right away. That’s also very appealing.”

“From my first conversation with him, it was very consistent,” Bowman said. “He said, ‘Look, thanks so much for the call.’ He talked about how, ‘I just need a little bit of time to get through these things. So if you can have a little patience, that’d be great.’ And I said, ‘Not a problem at all.’ I put myself in his shoes. It’s hard when you have young children like that.”

Fleury explored Lincoln Park, Lake View and other Chicago neighborhoods earlier this week, putting a “good plan in place” for his family. He visited Fifth Third Arena, selecting No. 29 for his new Hawks sweater and presumably seeing the massive “Welcome” billboard the Hawks lit up for him outside.

He’s able to reflect on his Knights tenure nostalgically but warmly now. He recalls showing up in 2017, not knowing “if people would like hockey,” before experiencing four years of incredible atmospheres in the NHL’s exploding new market.

With the Hawks, he’s looking forward to befriending, mentoring and splitting starts with Kevin Lankinen — “a very talented goalie,” in his words.

He’s (jokingly) happy to no longer have to, at least in games, face Patrick Kane — “one of the guys who gave me the most trouble in shootouts during my career.”

He wants to prove his .928 save percentage last season was no fluke — “I may not be as fast as I was at 20, but the experience that I’ve gained . . . [has] made me better at reading plays.”

And he’s determined to win, not only to prove the Knights foolish for trading him but also to uphold a standard he has maintained over his entire Hall of Fame-destined career. Not once in 15 seasons as a starter has he missed the playoffs.

“I’m very fortunate Stan gave me some time to reflect on what I wanted to do, what was best for me and my family,” he said. “[I’m] excited now. [I’m] excited to move and try to help the Blackhawks.”

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