Talbot gets hero's welcome

 

St-Bruno-de-Montarville - Thousands of locals, most of them kids, lined both sides of Rue Montarville yesterday to greet Maxime Talbot.

 
 
 
 

St-Bruno-de-Montarville - Thousands of locals, most of them kids, lined both sides of Rue Montarville yesterday to greet Maxime Talbot.

The 25-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins forward might not normally rate such a huge reception. But he brought a special guest.

It was the biggest thing to hit St. Bruno since ... well, it probably doesn't get any bigger in any small town in Quebec than having the Stanley Cup come for a visit.

"It's my hometown, I lived here all my life, my family still lives here, I played my minor hockey here at the Palais des Glaces, I got bursaries from the city when I was in major junior," Talbot said. "So it was an obvious choice. It was the only place I could think of to bring the Cup."

Talbot used the opportunity to raise funds for the Children's Wish Foundation.

"Obviously, you look at these kids, trying to fight these diseases. ... I just had the chance to realize my own dream a month ago; it's the best cause I could find."

After $5 tickets were put on sale the last few weeks, a random draw produced 125 winners who could bring their families and have their photo taken with Talbot and the Holy Grail of hockey. All the profits went to the charity, which hoped to raise $10,000.

With only a few weeks notice on the exact date, the town sprung into action. A parade down the main drag with Talbot, teammate Kris Letang, assorted family members and Penguins mascot Iceburgh on a flatbed truck was organized.

Letang helped Talbot, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder three weeks ago, hoist the Cup again ... and again.

Preceding them down Rue Montarville were cheerleaders and a marching band made up of Canadian Cadets who did their best to approximate the Hockey Night in Canada theme.

It all ended at the Parc du Village and the neighbouring school yard at the ecole de Montarville, where Talbot took the stage with the Cup to the strains of "We are the champions." There were lots of activities for the kids, a band, and plenty of cheering.

City officials estimated about 10,000 people turned out.

"This is unbelievable," said Mike Bolt, one of two "Cupkeepers" who travel with the famed silver bowl, entrusted with keeping it safe from too-eager hands, including those who might take it for a swim.

"This is a town of what, 25,000? I've never seen anything like it here in Canada.

"Is it going in the pool?" one fan asked Talbot at City Hall just before the parade.

"Not today," said Bolt, arms sternly crossed, dark sunglasses on."

You'd assume St. Bruno was pretty serious Canadiens country - but not on this day. A scan of the parade route revealed only one Habs jersey, one T-shirt, and one bucket hat with a small logo.

There were a few newly minted Maxime Talbot Stanley Cup champion T-shirts, and a lot of Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux jerseys. So it seems there's a Penguins pocket smack dab in the middle of Habsland.

It has been 16 years since the Canadiens hoisted the Cup, so hockey fans will have to make do with these periodic visits from Quebec players.

They've been rare.

In 2007, Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere brought the Cup to Blainville.

In 2004, Vincent Lecavalier came to Ile Bizard - then went down to Prince Arthur St., to a club called Sophia, where the Cup partied until 6:30 a.m.

This year, area fans are blessed; they'll get at least six chances to see it.

Philippe Boucher brought it to St. Apollinaire on July 5, the Cup arriving in a helicopter and landing on a soccer field before about 8,000 fans.

Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche had it in Rosemere on Thursday; Pascal Dupuis will bring it to Boisbriand today, and Letang gets it in Ste. Julie on Wednesday. Goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Mathieu Garon also will get a turn.

Last night, after all the public festivities, the Cup joined Talbot and 350 of his nearest and dearest at a private bash.

But the Cup turns in early these days - it now has a curfew.

"It didn't used to be that way, but as you can imagine, there are always problems after midnight," Bolt said. "That liquid courage."

Those photos of the Cup in Lemieux's swimming pool last month, which spread like wildfire on the Internet, didn't help its cause.

"I'm still not that thrilled (about that)," Bolt said. "Things happen, these guys have fun, get a little crazy, but it's not good for the Cup. We're respectful of the names that are on there, and we want to protect it."

Given that, Talbot wanted to maximize what turned out to be his 16 hours with the Cup.

"I hope it's not the last time we bring it to St. Bruno," he said. "It's a start, we hope. We'll take advantage of the day, because we don't know how many times it will happen."

smyles@thegazette.canwest.com

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice