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We weren't quite sure what to do with him. Maxime Talbot came to us during the summer. He wanted to slip into our ranks, making as few ripples as possible. But we didn't know if we would let him. He was our rival for years and suddenly he joined our brotherhood. We had to figure out how to work with him. We had to figure out if we wanted to work with him.

It seemed Jagr had the least worries as they once played for the same organization. Giroux and Briere met on the common ground of being French-Canadian on an American team. But overall, we didn't know where he would fit in. We couldn't guess at the chemistry he would have with the team. We knew line changes were coming, but we didn't know what the shakeup would cost us.

That was probably the problem. We felt it was going to be a cost. Max Talbot joining the team was going to be a negative in our mind. We were reluctant. Recalcitrant in some cases. Hartsy was dead set on giving him a hard time. Even refusing to be on the same line as Talbot during practice. Those were a horrible 3 weeks for everyone.

Despite our reservations, Talbot joining the team became a good thing.

By the middle of the season, we felt a bond with him. He was no longer on the outside. He was actually part of the brotherhood. He was our comrade and friend. It was hard to imagine being on the ice without him.

We still had moments when we weren't quite sure what to do with him. For instance, when we played his old team. We all felt a little angry when he stepped out to talk to his old coach. We didn't feel we had a right to be angry, but we still felt it. Max was ours. He wasn't their "Superstar" anymore. He was ours. Bylsma had no right to joke with him like that. Max had no right to smile at his jokes like that.

We claimed that dorky smile for ourselves and seeing him flash it at someone else made the ire flare up in ways we hadn't felt before. We didn't care that Bylsma once claimed that same smile. Max, in all his questionable fashion statements and goofy laughs, belonged to us. We made him part of us and to see him getting chummy with the enemy was beyond betrayal. Never mind that the interaction lasted all of 5 minutes and Max came scurrying back to us. Never mind that his carefree yet geeky smile was hiding a slight awkwardness at being in the presence of his old coach. We didn't want Max anywhere near his old team unless he was on the ice.

Surprisingly, Giroux had the most problem with this. He was fiercely possessive over everyone on the team. Something his laid back approach often hid.

Maybe he was just acting out what we were all feeling.

We felt that sense of betrayal again. For all that we claimed Max as our own (and he claimed us), he seemed to forget it at times.

Like the time we met up at Hartsy's apartment. We were all supposed to bring a dish to eat. We had a break from games, but it wasn't long enough for us to scatter to the four winds so we decided to just have a meal together. We wanted time to relax together away from the ice and pressures of the sport.

Max showed up with a date. Who does that? Shows up with a date when it was clear it wasn't a date function. Briere had to stop Hartsy from slamming the door in Max's face. We welcomed her as best we could. No one wanted her there and it was obvious. But we all pretended it wasn't. We watched her during the football game. We watched her during dinner. We watched her the whole night. We only did the surface things to make her feel welcomed.

Max left visibly angry. Max and his date left early.

Things were strained in the locker room at the next practice. We didn't know what to say to Max and he didn't want to talk to us. Giroux spoke softly to Max in French and Max grunted in response.

After that, we left him alone. The chemistry was a little off during practice and Coach noticed. He told us to "figure it out" or don't bother playing that night.

We don't know what happened between practice and the game, but Max came in and apologized. We made our apologies as well and the tension in the room evaporated. Coach noticed as soon as he walked in and smiled.

We played well with Max that night. The flubbed night forgotten. We could say that it was one of the best nights we had as a team. We had nothing but a smile to offer the media and it felt phenomenal.

We thought over everything and came to the conclusion that losing Max would be heartbreaking.

He is part of us.


nice, i like it :)
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