‘The Flower’ is the common bond between the Pittsburgh Penguins & Vegas Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury in goal for the Vegas Golden Knights. (Photo by Kevin Iole)
On the day the NHL schedule was released, I was excited about Feb. 6. That is the day that the Vegas Golden Knights go to Pittsburgh and play the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a diehard Penguins fan. I’ve loved hockey for as long as I can remember and went to the second home game in Penguins history, in 1967. I had season tickets for roughly 10 seasons when I lived in Pittsburgh.
As it turns out, though, I’ve lived in Las Vegas longer than I lived in Pittsburgh. This year, we have an NHL expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, and I’m a season ticket-holder once again.
I love it. I love hockey, first and foremost, but this is a wonderful team to root for and cheer on. When I bought the tickets, I did so primarily because I love hockey, not believing I’d ever become much more than a casual Golden Knights fan. But I am much more than that. I’m a diehard.
I live and die with the Knights. I make it a point to watch the road games on television and listen on the radio if I’m in a car. They weren’t expected to do well, but they’re in first-place in the Western Conference and second place overall in the league. More than the winning, though, is how they play.
They’re fast. They play hard. They play as a team. They never give up. They aren’t concerned about stats or credit or having nice things said about them in the media. They just want to win.
I’ll admit it: I’ve fallen for the Golden Knights.
When the Knights played the Penguins at T-Mobile Arena in December, I was there. Many people asked me who I was going to root for, and my answer was simple: The Penguins. I was born a Penguins fan and had been through so much with the franchise. It never occurred to me to give another answer.
But then I saw the Knights play night after night. I saw how hard they worked and how much they cared. And I fell for them. And late in the game between the Penguins and Knights, Vegas went up 2-1. And guess what: In the final five minutes, I turned to my wife, Betsy, and said, “I’m going to root for the Knights the rest of the way. I don’t want to see ‘The Flower’ lose this after everything that has gone on.”
The Flower, of course, is Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who came here after being exposed by the Penguins in the expansion draft. Fleury was an exceptional player in Pittsburgh, but what made him so beloved by his teammates and Penguins’ fans was not how great of a player he was, but the amazing human being he was.
I never met him. But I’ve read story after story about his amazing charitable works, his genteel nature and his fun-loving attitude. He’s a hard guy not to like from afar. He’s so beloved in Pittsburgh, Penguins’ players are wondering whether they’ll get booed for scoring on him.
Every time he’s introduced as the Knights’ goalie, I shout “Let’s go Flower!” He’s the tie that binds between the Knights and the Penguins.
Who am I going to root for tonight? Tough question. I can’t say. I really love the Knights. But my passion for the Penguins still burns. We’ll see what happens.
I know I’ll be rooting for Fleury personally, that much is true.
The Penguins knew what a great goalie he was, but they had Matt Murray, who was younger and cheaper and just as good (if not better), so it helped the team to let Fleury go. I was at the expansion draft and saw Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who was nominated for the Hart Trophy, cry when Fleury officially became a member of the Golden Knights.
We’ll see whether I root for the Knights or the Pens to win. The one thing that is without doubt, though, is this:
I will be rooting for Marc-Andre Fleury.
This is a photo I took of Matt Murray when I attended the Penguins at Coyotes game in Glendale, Ariz., in December. (Photo by Kevin Iole)