Gameface: Q&A with Penguins center Maxime Talbot
SP: Has it sunk in yet that you scored two goals in Game 7 and won the Stanley Cup?
M.T.: I kind of realize it now, but more for the team winning the Cup than scoring those goals. I’m still kind of on a cloud when it comes to that.
SP: Did you score those goals with an injured shoulder?
M.T.: Yes, but I’ve had that problem for nine years now. I’ve had this injury since I was 16 years old, so it was an old injury. It caused me problems late in the season taking face-offs, stuff like that – but it was playable, and it wasn’t something I injured during the playoffs that needed surgery right away. I had the surgery [in early July] because it needed to be done eventually.
SP: Speaking of injuries, what’s with the "secrecy" of the way hockey teams deal with injury reports?
M.T.: It’s so easy to target an injury with a stick, or with a puck, and when you know that somebody is hurt somewhere and you get into the playoffs, you can actually use that against a guy. In football, you have to make a tackle or block, and even if you know a guy is hurt, it’s hard to target that. In hockey, the game goes so fast that it’s so hard for the refs to see what’s really going on.
SP: When do you expect to be back on the ice?
M.T.: I would say mid-November. That’s probably a safe guess.
SP: Let’s go back a little. You were raised in a French-Canadian area – did you speak English growing up?
M.T.: Not really. I started learning English in school when I was about 12, but I sucked at it until I was 16 or 17 and playing junior hockey and learning all the terms used in practices and games. And when I went to Wilkes-Barre when I was 20, I started to learn a lot more, obviously, because everybody spoke English.
SP: I remember interviewing you back then, and you said you were working hard on your English because no American girls could speak French.
M.T.: Oh, definitely. You want to get around; you want to meet people and communicate. But I’ll always want to keep my French accent because it’s kind of cute (laughs).
SP: You’re tight with Marc-Andre Fleury – how far back do you guys go?
M.T.: We only lived about a half-an-hour apart, so we played a lot of hockey against each other when we were 11 or 12 years old. I got to know him more when we played in the World Junior Championships together. Then we played in Wilkes-Barre together during the [NHL] lockout year. And I actually lived at his house for a few months, so it was pretty amazing to be on the ice with him and actually win a Cup.
SP: Speaking of junior hockey, you put up some great numbers there, but you weren’t drafted until the eighth round. Were you disappointed that so many teams passed you by so many times?
M.T.: No, not at all. I was only 17 when I was drafted, and I didn’t expect much. It was just nice to be drafted. That draft day was a little tough, but you put your foot in the door and after that you roll with it.
SP: Your first few years you were mainly a penalty killer, a grinder type of player, but last year you got the chance to play on Evgeni Malkin’s line. Is that where you see yourself? Are you a top-six forward in the NHL?
M.T.: Wow – that’s a good question. I’d like to think I can be a top-six player, but for a whole year there are a lot of ups and downs. I would love to be obviously, and I think that on the top lines you can’t have the same types of players. I like to think I can go get pucks for guys like Geno [short for Evgeni Malkin]. I’ll probably never score 35 goals a year, but I know my role. I’ll do what they ask me to do. Whether that’s at fourth-line center or second-line winger – whatever I can do to help the team win.
SP: Speaking of Geno, he made you a national story last year with the "bad hands" comment. Despite his broken English, is he a funny dude? And is that why you two get along well?
M.T.: Well, we were roommates for two years and we created a nice friendship. He’s a great person. Obviously, it’s taking him a lot longer to learn English than most (laughs), but he has a great personality and he loves the game of hockey, so it’s easy to get along with a guy like that.
SP: Last year, every one of your teammates credited you for turning around Game 6 in Philly after you fought Daniel Carcillo. Tell me about your thought process on the bench before that fight.
M.T.: In the first period, I had a really bad turnover against [Mike] Richards that cost us a goal, and I felt really bad about that because we had the momentum. Then after that they scored again and again, and it was 3-0. So I was like "What can I do to help the team?" I knew I wasn’t going to score three goals, but I knew Carcillo from Wilkes-Barre, and I knew he was a fighter, so I might as well try something, so I asked him to fight and he did. Sometimes that’s a little scary, but you do what you can to help the team. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. You just try to change the momentum, and that’s what happened. But you really have to give credit to my teammates for scoring the goals after that.
SP: And going off the ice, you gave the "Shhhhh" motion to the crowd.
M.T.: Yeah – that was in the heat of the moment. I saw him [Carcillo] put his hands in the air going to the penalty box, and I thought that he shouldn’t do that. So, it worked and there are some good pictures of that – it’s a good memory.
SP: You’re also known as a guy who likes to have fun. Do you have a kind of "seize the day" personality?
M.T.: I think so. I was raised like that. I’m from a really tight family, and I was taught that you’ve got to enjoy yourself, enjoy life, because you never know what can happen. And right now, I feel lucky to be playing with a great team doing what I love to do, and I feel fortunate to be able to do that. That’s how I live on and off the ice, and that’s why when fans come up to me, I always try to be nice. You know what? We’re really lucky to be doing what we do. I think most of our guys realize it and I definitely do.
SP: But there has to be a line somewhere – I’m sure people swarm you when you’re out and about. Do you still like the attention? And has your opinion of "public interaction" changed now that everyone is carrying around a cell-phone camera?
M.T.: Well, that has gotten worse. You have to be careful because you’re always in the spotlight. And it’s different now because you know that when you take pictures with fans, it’s going to be on Facebook the next day.
SP: Your recent car commercials for A&L Motors in Monroeville gained you lots of attention. Looking back, has that been a good or bad thing?
M.T.: It’s been a good thing. I might have looked a little crazy or a little stupid, but everybody who talks to me says, "I love that commercial." It was all for fun, and I did it for friends at the dealership, and I’m never going to regret it.
SP: For our female readers I have to ask – are you in a relationship?
M.T.: No, I’m single. Let’s leave it at that.
SP: Complete this sentence: Max Talbot is…
M.T.: …a superstar – chick-a-chee-chee (laughs)! No, just kidding. How about one-of-a-kind?
Craig McConnell is a born-and-bred Pittsburgher. He is a coordinating producer at FSN, where he’s worked since 2001. Before joining FSN, Craig worked as a videographer at WSYX-TV in Columbus and WTOV-TV in Steubenville. He lives in Hampton with his wife, Jill, and their two kids, Derek and Leah.