Fleury staying young with Wild, padding Hall of Fame resume at age 38


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Marc-Andre Fleury turned 38 on Monday. At Minnesota Wild practice the next morning, the goalie didn’t look old. He looked like his old self, smiling, laughing, stretching across the crease to make saves.

As he sat in the locker room afterward, Wild general manager Bill Guerin walked past. Fleury and Guerin played together with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the end of the 2008-09 season and in 2009-10, when Fleury was in his 20s, starting his rise in the NHL, and Guerin was in his late 30s, finishing his career as a forward.

“Marc!” Guerin said. “How you feelin’?”

“Good,” Fleury said. “You see me out there?”

“Yeah. One year older!”

“The groins are still young. It’s OK.”

“I remember you used to make fun of me when I was your age.”

“I did. Yeah.”

They laughed, and Fleury smiled sheepishly. He said he used to tease Guerin by calling him “the old guy,” pointing out his little gray hairs, saying he was slower and stiffer.

“And now I’m this guy,” Fleury said in almost a whisper. “I’m like, ‘Oh, my god.'”

What goes around comes around, but Fleury isn’t finished adding to a resume that should put him in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Fleury is 8-4-1 with a 2.37 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and one shutout in his past 13 games for the Wild. He made 18 saves in a 5-3 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.

Video: MIN@SEA: Fleury makes 28 saves in 1-0 win over Kraken

Wild coach Dean Evason said Fleury looks like he’s 15 years old because of his energy and competitiveness. Defenseman Alex Goligoski marveled at his enthusiasm and athleticism.

“He’s having a blast at all times, and he takes care of himself,” said Goligoski, Fleury’s teammate with the Penguins from 2007-11. “I notice no difference from 15 years ago. It’s crazy.”

Consider this: Roberto Luongo was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Nov. 14. He won 489 games, fourth in NHL history.

Fleury has won 528.

He also has done some things Luongo didn’t. He won the Stanley Cup, as a starter in 2008, a backup in 2016 and in both roles in 2017 with the Penguins, and the 2021 Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Does that make him feel good? Old? Both?

“Time flies by so quick,” Fleury said with a laugh. “I don’t just sit there and look at stats and see where things are at. But now that you mention it, Roberto’s a guy that I loved watching, so it’s a little weird being in the same category stats-wise. It is definitely weird.”

Fleury needs 23 wins to catch Patrick Roy for second in NHL history. That would put him behind only Martin Brodeur’s 691. He said he doesn’t think about it daily, but he’s aware of it. Roy and Brodeur were his idols growing up.

“It’s something that’s pretty cool,” Fleury said. “In my head a few years back, I thought, like, ‘If I could round it up to 500, that would be pretty cool, to go home (in retirement) having achieved that.’ I’ve been fortunate enough to keep playing and achieve it. …

“It’s surreal maybe to even come a little bit closer to [Roy], but not there yet.”

Fleury does feel his age.

“Oh, yeah,” he said with a laugh. “Jeez. A lot. Many days. Many days.”

He said he used to go without stretching and had no problem practicing the day after a game, even if he went to bed at 3 a.m.

Now when he wakes up the morning after a game, he’s stiffer than he used to be. He has less jump. He has to put more time into staying flexible and more thought into managing his energy.

But he said it’s not bad, and there are advantages.

“Sometimes maybe you’re not as fast, but you’re a little wiser,” he said. “You read the play better. I think that helps you keep playing a little bit.”

The game keeps you young too.

Fleury still pranks teammates behind the scenes, and he remains comfortable and humble in the spotlight. He went from goaltender to bartender Tuesday at Wild About Children, a fundraiser for the Minnesota Wild Foundation, when players served fans at Xcel Energy Center. While mixing and pouring a lavender martini called “Wild Flower,” he cracked jokes, signed autographs and posed for pictures.

“It’s weird in hockey,” he said. “You don’t feel like [you’ve grown] up or aged too much. Like, obviously your body feels it some days, but mentally you think, ‘Oh, I’m still with young guys.'”

Thirty-four goalies have played in the NHL after turning 38, some to great success. Johnny Bower and Dwayne Roloson each won 102 games. Dominik Hasek won 101, Jacques Plante 91, Brodeur 89, Ed Belfour 83 ….

How many more will Fleury win? How much longer will he play?

“I don’t want to want to speculate,” said Fleury, who is signed through next season. “We’ll see. I’m getting there, right? It’s definitely those two years That could be it. Maybe another one. I don’t know.”

Enjoy it while it lasts.

“He’s having fun,” Evason said. “Sometimes we lose sight of that. These guys are making big money and they’re pros and all that kind of stuff, but it’s still a game out there, and he makes it a game for not only himself but his teammates.”