A little less than a year ago, the NHL gathered in Las Vegas for its annual NHL Awards ceremony it hosts at the end of every season. In addition to the standard awards festivities, the NHL also conducted the expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights. Throughout the evening, Vegas owner Bill Daly and general manager George McPhee selected the players who comprised the original Golden Knights roster.
As we all know now, Marc-Andre Fleury was the player selected from the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was an expected outcome but still emotional nonetheless. Fleury was the first piece in the rebuild process that eventually gave us three Stanley Cup championships.
Coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups and consecutive Conn Smythe trophies, Sidney Crosby was in attendance at the awards ceremony where he was a finalist for the Hart Trophy.
Sitting alongside Carl Hagelin, Crosby watched Fleury, a career long teammate to this point, be selected by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft. It was surely an emotional moment for Crosby as well.
Following the ceremony, Crosby sat down with reporters for a quick media session where he answered questions regarding his season and Conor McDavid. Then came the question every one was waiting for, his thoughts on Marc-Andre Fleury being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights.
Crosby opened by talking about the pressure and expectations of playing in Pittsburgh and how those may be totally different playing for an expansion team. He stated that the expectations for the new Vegas team would increase down the road but he ended his response with a look to the very near future.
“Knowing how competitive he [Fleury] is I think he’ll make sure he does what he can to help the team have success right away.”
Fast forward 11 months and the Vegas Golden Knights, led by Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, have captured the Western Conference crown and will play in the Stanley Cup Final beginning on Monday.
It’s unlikely Crosby believed the Golden Knights would be having this type of success as an expansion team or perhaps Crosby pulled off his best Doctor Strange impression and saw into the future that night in Las Vegas.
Whatever the case may be, Crosby knew what the Golden Knights were getting when they selected Fleury to be not only their goaltender but also the face of their franchise.
A fierce competitor who knows what it takes to win at the highest level of hockey. A guy who helped a city heal from unimaginable tragedy and became the face of its first major sports franchise. A player who has backstopped an expansion team to within four wins of a Stanley Cup.