Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff’s armpits were a mess.
Two years ago at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, starter Marc-Andre Fleury switched the wrappers on the spray deodorant and hairspray in the locker room.
Zatkoff, who came off late after skating with the scratches, never noticed.
“I was like, ‘Man, what’s going on?’ ” Zatkoff said. “My armpits were rock hard. I found out after that he had switched it.”
The prank is one of probably thousands Fleury has pulled since making his NHL debut with the Penguins in 2003.
“I play better when I’m looser, laughing and having fun,” he said.
Ask any Penguins player about Fleury’s antics, and it’s hard not to get a chuckle.
“There’s a lot of stuff that I can’t tell you about,” Ben Lovejoy said.
“I don’t want to give you any of my go-tos because there are a lot of new guys here,” Fleury said with a smile. “Still flying under the radar, trying to keep quiet.”
Aside from the deodorant trick, Fleury has tied together socks, filled former strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar’s car with packing peanuts, rearranged hotel room furniture, jumped out of equipment bags and held defensemen’s sticks hostage until seconds before opening faceoff.
“That’s what makes us successful with him in the net,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “He’s always smiling.”
Lovejoy said he wants to stay on Fleury’s good side because, “He’s like a 5-year-old. He’s just going to keep trying to get you. And I don’t want that.”
Besides being one of Fleury’s regular targets, Sidney Crosby said he often acts as his French-speaking goaltender’s translator, a point that might be a subtle jab.
“He’ll order something on the team plane, and the stewardess will look at him like, ‘What did you say?’ ” Crosby said. “He’ll say it again, and she still has no idea. Then he’ll start laughing. I end up having to explain what it is that he wants for his postgame meal.”
Even Crosby, as serious as they come, can’t resist the temptation of taking a shot at his good friend.
“It’s been awhile since he’s done anything,” Crosby said. “I think he’s got out of the game a little bit.”
Fleury, though, hasn’t slipped. His game’s as sharp as ever. And he relishes his role as the Leader of Levity inside the dressing room.
“It’s probably not easy for a goalie to be like that,” Crosby said. “There’s a lot of responsibility.
“But it’s just natural for him to be like that, and I think it’s important. When guys see your goalie that relaxed, it definitely has a calming effect.