Marc-André Fleury’s helmet is not unlike the Vegas Golden Knights ice hockey team itself — right there in plain sight but filled with hidden surprises and delights easily missed at first glance. Of course, the NHL expansion team’s biggest stunner was its unprecedentedly impressive season that landed it a slot in the playoffs this month.
It’s flashy of course, but gets the job done, and is as much a work of art as some of the incredible saves the superstar goalie has made throughout the season. Created by Fleury’s longtime go-to artist Stephane Bergeron, the directive was two-fold: capture the icon’s role on the ice and in Sin City.
“The challenge was to paint all these small details of the Las Vegas Strip combined with the idea of being a knight,” said Bergeron. The mask tells a visual tale of two Fleurys. The left side is filled with Vegas’ most recognizable landmarks, including the “Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” sign, the Stratosphere tower and New York New York hotel’s Statue of Liberty. The right side is a noble nod to the heraldic heritage that inspired the team’s name, including a knight astride a black horse wielding a golden sword and shield.
But even the biggest fan might have missed a few flourishes that can be hard to see from a distance.
“The left side has characters from the movie ‘300’,’” said the artist. “You’ll also see a knight on his horse.” He added, “The entire background represents the logo of a knight’s helmet. On the gold background, I added some gold leaf parts just like the gold texture on the jerseys.”
Also included, at Fleury’s request, are references to a former team (the Cape-Breton Screaming Eagles junior hockey team in Quebec), his late grandparents’ initials, his children’s names and the fleur-de-lis motif reflecting his nickname.
“I met Marc-André when he played in the Juniors League,” said Bergeron, a Quebec native who has worked with Fleury for several years. “Since then I have painted all his masks.”
“I grew up in Drummondville, Quebec about 60 miles from Montreal. I’ve been drawing since a young age,” he said. “In 1991, I bought my first airbrush and stated to paint my motorcycle helmet. Then I did my first goalie mask just to try to do one.”
It worked out. In 1995, Bergeron left his job as a graphic designer and started his own company creating elaborate helmets for NHL goalies. (Other players who have worn his work include Patrick Lalime (Pittsburgh Penguins), Roberto Luongo (NY Islanders, Florida Panthers), Ilya Bryzgalov (Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers), Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks) and Matt Murray (also of the Pittsburgh Penguins).
Seeing famous faces behind his masks is still “a big thrill,” but he’s just as proud of his amateur helmets.
“It doesn’t matter if the goalie is a kid or a NHL star. My goal remains the same. I want to make my customer happy.”
One client, in particular, keeps Begeron very happy (and busy).
“I’m a fan of my goalies, but Fleury is my favorite one,” he confessed. “The fact that he has been loyal to my work since the beginning makes me very proud.”