The Pittsburgh Penguins just won the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive year. It is the second time the Penguins have won a back-to-back title and many intriguing storylines have come from their run.
Even those of you who are hockey fans, however, may not likely be aware of the bigger story brewing behind the scenes.
Okay, I’m possibly being dramatic. It’s hard to top the story of a championship run. But for a PR professional and for the media covering the team this truly is quite the story. And, it should be an important story for you if you are the leader/spokesperson of your ministry or organization. It is a story of perseverance, grace in troubled times, transparency, and kindness. And because of those things, it is also a story of unequivocal respect between an athlete in the not-so-friendly spotlight, and the media.
This is the story of Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins backup goaltender. Indulge me for just a minute as I set up the story. Fleury was drafted as the top player in the NHL Draft by the Penguins in 2003. He has won three Stanley Cups with the team and has been an enormous reason the Penguins have been so successful in recent years.
But Fleury suffered a concussion in 2016 and the opportunity opened up for a new guy to take his place for a few games. And, that guy was spectacular – and 22 years old. In skates Matt Murray, and the goalie debate was officially on. It has continued off and on through the 2017 season in which the Penguins would not have won the title if it had not been for both Murray and Fleury, who was the goalie of record for 9 of the 16 wins during this year’s playoffs.
As of today, it looks as though Fleury will be traded shortly. It’s too pricey to keep both players around. It seems like an easy business decision. Here’s the catch though, Fleury is beloved by EVERYONE. His teammates call him the best teammate and friend they could ever imagine playing with, Murray calls him his mentor and friend, and the media… well, they’re actually heartbroken over how this has transpired for him.
The media, though fair in their assessment of his play and in the position that the team is in, to a man, has expressed how much they will miss him being around and covering him.
On the day following the celebration parade in downtown Pittsburgh, the team always gathers together one last time for locker cleanouts and the media is present for final interviews. Once all the interviews were complete and it was time for the media to leave, every single media member lined up to shake Fleury’s hand. They knew it was the last time they would interview him in that lockerroom. They stuck around to show respect for a man that had been so kind and respectful to them, and to the job that they did for so many years.
When locker clean out day was over, every member of the media lined up to shake Marc-Andre Fleury’s hand. He’s in a class of his own.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) June 15, 2017
The road wasn’t always easy for Fleury. There were many, many losses in the beginning. And I’m sure his end in Pittsburgh was no where close to what he imagined. But, he always made himself available to the media. He always answered their questions. And, he always did it with grace, honesty, integrity, and kindness.
We can all learn a lot about how to treat people and how to handle difficult situations from Marc-Andre Fleury. But in the world of media and public relations, the faster we learn how to respect each other and the jobs we do, the better off we will all be.
Though he will be in the opponent’s lockerroom the next time he comes to Pittsburgh, you can be assured that even the media will be kind and gracious when they cover Fleury as he attempts to defeat his long-time friends and now ex-teammates.
As the leader of your organization, are you that person, through thick and thin, the media respects and trusts? Though the media will not shy away from covering difficult subjects regarding you and your organization if necessary, they will respect you by being fair. And, respect is a wonderful thing!