In honour of Maxime Talbot Days, we have something a little different, because, well, Max is a little different. And because he always listens when we write him little love-notes during games daring him to score, we figured why not write him some pseudo-fan-mail? We know he's on vacay, but hey, who doesn't love getting fan mail?
You know you're the shit. We don't have to tell you that you rock, because you pretty much remind us of that fact every time we're tempted to forget that you're an integral part of the Penguins. Half the time we're waiting for Sid to score a clutch go-ahead goal in the third period of an all-important playoff game, it's your bad hands that somehow find the puck and score a somewhat unbelievable goal to secure a W for the team. What makes it all the more unbelievable is that it's you scoring that goal, and not Sid or Geno or even Petr Sykora. And for all those goals, we want to say thanks. And we owe you about eight or nine shots of tequila next time we see you on Carson Street. (Don't worry, babe, we can drink you under the table... at least, we're pretty sure we can... we're willing to risk losing just to find out.) I mean, those two goals game seven? Those are going down history. Whever someone talks about the 2009 Cup Final, your name will be the one they say with awe-struck disbelief. Because fourth line centres don't usually score their team's only goals in games that big. Except you. You always tend to score those goals, don't you? You live off the adrenaline rush. You love being that guy who shows up for big games.
We all wish you could show up like that every game, but if you did that in every game, you wouldn't be you, now would you? We love you for being full of ten times more leadership than Mike Richards, as you took your junior team to back-to-back championships in the QMJHL and won yourself consecutive Guy Lafleur Trophies. We love you for having played for Team Canada and for treating baby Sidney like he was your dorky little Anglo brother. And we love you for being that eigth-round pick who drank his way through three seasons in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL. You live it up, no matter where you are. You show up, you play, and you throw the effing after-party. You do it all. Maybe you aren't captain of the Penguins (hell, you don't WANT the responsibility, do you?) but you are the eye of that storm. When things look hopeless, you somehow find the calm in the centre of the storm, you pull some unreal game-tying goal out of thin air with 34.8 seconds to spare, and you take an elimination game of the Stanley Cup final into overtime so your boys at least have a shot of winning the game and the Cup.
Sure, you didn't win the Cup that year, but honestly, if you had, you'd have had a heart attack. We all would have. It would have been a little too insane, even for you or I. But this year, when you told the media that all you wanted was to meet Marian Hossa in the handshake line and tell him he picked the wrong team? That's when I knew. That's when I knew that you, and you alone, if necessary, would win the Cup. You would make sure the Penguins won the Cup, if only to show Hossa who the real winners were, and what faith and loyalty and perserverance count for. And you won it. You went out there and scored when no one else seemed capable of it. You went out and you pretty much single-handedly won the Pens the Cup - as much as any one player can single-handedly win a hockey game or a Stanley Cup. You had the whole team behind you, but you were the one who found the net. You were the one who scored those clutch goals. You were the one chanelling the heros of Cup-finals Past.
No one wants to think that this is it, that you may never win it again, so they play it cool on their day with the Cup. Except you. You lived it up this summer and threw a massive party in Lemoyne and then showed up to help everyone who ever played in the Q celebrate the big win. How many days with the Cup did you crash??? As much as we can all understand that you're just the centre of the party and you just want to be there with everyone to celebrate, we all know your overzealousness to spend time with Stanley betrays a tiny fear that you, like Billy Guerin, may not win it again until you're nearly forty and you get traded at the deadline to some young dream team with the NHL's hottest young talent where you fit amazingly into the top line with their playboy centre and help take that team to their first Cup championship in nearly two decades. If ever.
We think that unlike Grandpa Guerin, you'll win it again soon. Maybe even next June? (You know that whole winning-the-Cup-on-home-ice-to-give-Mellon-Arena-a-proper-send-off plan? Yeah, we haven't forgotten, and we know you'd love to write that storybook ending, you die-hard romantic fool!) Ray Shero isn't going to trade you, not when Sykora's not coming back. Sure, you don't put up numbers like Petr-Gunn, but, like Sykie, you're there when it counts. You're worth infinitely more than your weight in vegas gold. And even though your numbers in the regular season are never, ever going to win you the Art Ross, you'll always be a superstar in Pittsburgh. No one cares about numbers. Pens fans care more about you shushing Philly and showing up, guns ablazing, to elimination games. If you score when it counts, no one will remember that you only scored 12 goals in the regular season last year. They'll rememeber that you scored 8 goals in the post season, and 4 of those in the Cup final series, and two of those in game seven, when Sid and Geno couldn't score to win the Cup. But you could. And you did.
Sid and Geno are like the foundations of some really epic monument to hockey, kind of like the Egyptian Sphinx or something... And if they're the body, you're kind of like the Sphinx's broken nose. They score all season, and play like beasts when they are, and they set up everything the team is capable of accomplishing. No one forgets what a huge part of the team they are, and no one ever will. But you're like the nose: it's extraneous enough that a huge chunk of it can fall off and the monument itself remains unaffected. But it's that broken chunk, it's almost what's not there, like your regular season scoring, that defines the nose. What remains is not much, but it's what everyone remembers about the Sphinx. The broken nose.
Last December, the Pens signed you to a contract extension through the 2010-2011 season. We like this. All of Pittsburgh does (well, all of the Burgh that watches hockey). We know you'll be in rehab until November, but if you could please be on the ice on December 23rd, and maybe at Diesel after you kick the Sens' asses, we'll make sure we have enough in our wallets to get you properly trashed. We'll even walk you home and tuck you in at the end of the night. We may raide your cupboards for Poptarts before we head back to our hotel, though, just so you're prepared. (We like the strawberry kind.) We get weird cravings when we're drunk...
In any case, keep up the good work. We love you. And we're so not kidding about those shots of tequila. Or about about you winning the Cup in Mellon Arena next June. We dare you not to do it. You can't say no now, can you? Didn't think so.
all our lovelovelove,
The Black Aces
p.s. When you're playing the first, last and only Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final Mellon Arena will ever host, remember who it was who put the idea in your head. We'll take six seats in the WI2, please and thank you and a bottle of Crown Royal.