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Marc-Andre Fleury trade ‘hard pill to swallow’ for Knights fans

To use the Golden Knights’ parlance whenever one of their members suffers an ache or pain, there were an abundance of upper-body injuries judging from the forlorn expressions and angry words of those at City National Arena after Marc-Andre Fleury was traded Tuesday to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Being more specific — something the Knights would never do — it appeared nearly all were suffering from broken hearts.

Within an hour of the goaltending deity being traded to the Blackhawks for the equivalent of a used puck bag, Golden Knights and Fleury fans (one and the same) began trickling into the practice arena gift shop in pursuit of one last souvenir bearing the current Vezina Trophy recipient and future Hall of Famer’s name, number or smiling face.

Most said they understood that hockey is a business. Many also were familiar with the concept of a salary cap, and the notion that perhaps with the $7 million still owed Fleury if he stayed, Vegas might finally acquire a guy capable of putting the biscuit in the basket during the playoffs, or beating somebody like a rented mule.

But everybody still sounded more upset than VGK enforcer Ryan Reeves when a homeowner fails to change the clock on his lawn sprinklers during summertime.

Cap runneth over

The gift shop at City National was all out of Fleury jerseys — those responsible for stocking the shelves apparently were blindsided, too.

Tonya Fabian, a transplanted Knights supporter who grew up battening down hatches in Corpus Christi, Texas, was forced to settle for another Marc-Andre T-shirt and a Marc-Andre puck. To go with her five Marc-Andre jerseys, four other Marc-Andre T-shirts, a Marc-Andre mask, multiple Marc-Andre ball caps and too much other Marc-Andre swag to even mention at home.

“Pretty upset,” she said about her reaction to the trade, “especially after (Vegas owner Bill) Foley announcing this was (Fleury’s) home as long as he wanted it. It’s sad. I understand the business side of it and everything, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow.”

Ethan Kane, 16 and no relation to Patrick of the Blackhawks and (especially not) Evander of the San Jose Sharks, had typed a few thoughts about Fleury into his cellphone that he shared.

“He’s been the heart of our team, the face of our team, since the very beginning,” said the teenager who was sporting a head of copper-colored curls that were less organized than VGK’s power play in the playoff loss to Montreal. “One of the originals. Crazy, athletic, lightning reflexes. It’s gonna seem like something is missing for sure.”

Famous last words

And so it went. Practically everybody left the gift shop looking as if their dog had just died, save for a young man who identified himself only as J.T. Despite growing up about a half-hour from the Twin Cities in hockey-centric Minnesota, J.T. said he had no prior knowledge of Marc-Andre Fleury, or of pro hockey in general.

He was told he should have moved to San Jose, where he would fit right in.

A man who worked for the Knights said he had no comment. Then he motioned me into a corner outside the gift shop and offered one consisting of two words. The second one rhymed with pucks.

But it was a two-word response (or at least two words linked by a hyphen) of a more genteel variety that seemed to best capture the mood of Golden Knights fans on a day that, even if you saw it coming, seemed more dramatic than an overtime goal in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final.

Mariel Nole of Henderson was asked what she would say to the face of the franchise, as well as its heart and soul, were Marc-Andre Fleury to walk out of the City National dressing room and into the lobby at that moment. It took her but a split second to respond.

“Thank-you.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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