Max Talbot: Long Way from Lifting the Cup But He's Still Playing

The game’s asking a lot from Talbot these days, but Talbot’s a hockey lifer and he’s still willing to give what’s required.

There’s a price to pay for the love of the game.

Hockey types often talk about the price that must be paid to play the game, and when they do often times they’re talking about going to the net, blocking a shot or taking a hit to make a play.

But sometimes it’s more than physical pain that the game demands and extracts from those for whom the game means everything.

That point was driven home last weekend in Rochester, N.Y., when a bus pulled up to the Radisson Riverside and Max Talbot ambled off.

Talbot hit town with his current team, the Providence Bruins. The Boston Bruins’ AHL affiliate had arrived from a game in Toronto against the Marlies on Saturday afternoon and in advance of a game in Rochester against the Americans on Sunday evening.

That’s a long way from Game 7 in Detroit for Talbot, whose two goals against the Red Wings helped deliver a Stanley Cup for the Penguins on that magical night in June of 2009.

Talbot was so emotional he was on the verge of tears on the ice at Joe Louis Arena when he spoke of celebrating with his mother.

He might have been again had he noticed the signage in the hotel lobby in Rochester promoting the Rochester Erotic Arts Festival.

It doesn’t get much more minor league than that.

Talbot is a month and change away from having turned 32, which isn’t ancient by NHL standards. But in the 36 games he’s played in the NHL this season Talbot has produced two goals, four assists, six points and a plus/minus of -10.

He’s bounced from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Colorado to Boston and, finally, to Providence, Rochester and the rest of the AHL’s outposts since that magical night in Detroit.

It’s uncertain whether he’ll ever make it back to the NHL, whether he’ll be playing in Europe next season or whether he’ll be playing at all.

But for now he’s still a hockey player, one determined to finish the season.

So he rides the buses and plays the minor-league arenas with kids who may or may not know he was once on top of the hockey world.

The game’s asking a lot from Talbot these days, but Talbot’s a hockey lifer and he’s still willing to give what’s required.

Just before the Providence Bruins’ bus pulled into the Radisson, the Robert Morris University Colonials’ bus pulled out.

RMU had just been beaten, 7-4, in the Atlantic Hockey Conference Championship Game.

The second-place trophy may or may not have been aboard the Colonials’ ride back home. That had been sitting in an otherwise empty office in the bowels of Blue Cross Arena under a computer bag in the wake of RMU’s loss.

The Colonials had wanted and had expected so much more than to come up one game shy of the NCAA Tournament. But once that happened the hopes and dreams of a promising team had been shattered and the careers of nine record-setting seniors had come to a sudden and agonizing end. And the reality of all that hung in the air like the stench from an equipment bag.

The Colonials had finished their season, but it finished with the game tearing their hearts out.

The physical pain most lifers get used to, it’s accepted as part of the deal with hockey.

That’s a point that’s driven home often to those who hang around the game, sometimes more vividly than others.

The Penguins’ 1993 playoff series against the New York Islanders was such a time.

Pens defenseman Mike Ramsey was in the 13th season of an NHL career that had followed the striking of gold as a member of the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 U.S. Olympic Team back then. And what continuing to play the game required as much as anything else for Ramsey at that juncture was ice bags. On his knees, on his hips, on his wrists, on his shoulders, on anything to which ice bags could be applied.

As he staggered from the training room to his locker well after one of those ’93 playoff games had ended, a reporter couldn’t help but notice Ramsey’s resemblance to a mummy comprised entirely of adhesive tape, plastic bags and ice.

The reporter made a smart-aleck remark, to which Ramsey responded with an obscenity.

And then Ramsey continued to drag himself across the room.

He kept going.

That’s what hockey players do.

Until the game doesn’t let them any more.


Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section