Getting personal with Fleury

EARL MCRAE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

The great NHL superstar of years past, Thomas Stearns Eliot, once said "April is the cruelest month," but the visionary T.S. does not have his words up on the walls of the Pittsburgh Penguins dressing room along with their other slogans they brought with them to Scotiabank Place.

Professional sport is all about control, rituals, and superstitions, so the 'Gwines don't want to take the chance that Eliot had them in mind, not the Senators, which is why the Penguins have chosen to go with their own travelling wall accessories:

Together Energy Achieves Much and for added punch With Tradition And History Comes Responsibility and just to be sure Be Proud Of The Way We Work and because it never hurts The Journey Starts Here and in case they forget Pittsburgh Penguins -- The Cup Changes Everything.

Athletes having been raised on, and conditioned to, bland, trite, ritualistic questions and giving bland, trite, ritualistic answers they believe constitutes deep profundity:

"We need to focus. We need to play 60 minutes. We need to move our feet. We need to be patient. We need to step it up. We're focused. We played 60 minutes. We moved our feet. We were patient. We stepped it up." Yadda, yadda, blah, blah, stop the presses, extra, extra, read all about it.

Sitting in a corner of the Penguins dressing room in the comforting bosom of his team's signs is the son of Andre and France Fleury of Sorel, Que, and any temptation I have to ask him if April is, indeed, the cruelest month, flies out the door when I experience his startled reaction to my question of deepest profundity and terrifying hidden agenda.

"Marc-Andre," I say, asking a question that is not yet the one of deepest profundity and terrifying hidden agenda, "goalies often have the most superstitions; what are yours?"

He smiles, figuring it's safe to answer. "I always get dressed at the last minute in the dressing room. My uniform. I don't like to sit around. I don't like to sit here falling asleep."

No, falling asleep wouldn't be good. But as a superstition it's amateur city compared to the beauty of the one sitting near him -- S. Crosby of Cole Harbour, N.S. -- who lifts his feet up in the air and touches the window every time the team bus goes over railway tracks. One never knows how many feet-gobbling monsters are hiding in railway tracks.

"Marc-Andre," I continue, "tell me about that silver necklace you're wearing."

That did it for him. The question of deep profundity and terrifying hidden agenda. Can't be answered with: "Need to focus, play 60 minutes, move feet, be patient, step it up." What was I up to anyway?

"Why do you want to know that?" he asks, rattled.

" Just wondering, that's all."

"It's personal," he says.

"Did you buy it?" I ask.

A woman standing nearby interjects. "It's personal," Jennifer Bullano, the club's director of communications says to him. "You don't need need to answer that."

"It was a gift," ventures Fleury, hesitantly.

"From who?"

This is getting frighteningly life-threatening for me.

"My mother. My parents."

"For Christmas? Birthday?"

He doesn't answer. If I'm not CSIS, I must be CIA or FBI.

"Was it given to you for good luck?" I ask.

A second or two of assessment. "Yes."

The game has just ended. Ottawa Senators 2, Silver Necklace 4. The son of Andre and France Fleury is standing in his uniform outside the Penguins dressing room. He's waiting to be interviewed on TV. Jennifer Bullano gently wipes the sweat off his face with a hanky.

"I guess your silver necklace worked for you," I say behind Fleury's back.

He turns. He smiles his big, luminous smile. "Yeah," he says, laughing. "Not every night, but tonight, yes."

Weather Network forecast for Tuesday the 20th in this the cruelest month: "Mainly sunny."

But for who?


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