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Maxime Tanguay aims for brother's accomplishments

by Lindsay Kramer
From his perspective, Toledo Walleye rookie forward Maxime Tanguay doesn't see himself as carrying any extra expectations just because his older brother, Alex, is an accomplished NHL player.

"We've always been compared when we were young," Maxime said. "But my brother is my brother. I'm proud of him. He was my hero."

Trying to fill skates is one thing. Filling a trophy and souvenir case is a completely different matter. When it comes to the latter challenge, Maxime shudders at the task at hand.

The Tanguay family loves collecting mementos from the careers of their hockey playing sons and displaying them in their home in Lac Etchemin, Quebec. Since Alex is nine years older, a veteran of 714 NHL games and counting and a Stanley Cup champ, the collection has been mostly a shrine to his career.

But Alex recently built a new house and moved his trophies, medals and various other tributes there. The bright side for Maxime, who has gathered many souvenirs from his junior days, is that there's now a lot of extra shelf space. The downside is that the void of memories is cavernous.

"The home is kind of empty," said Maxime, 21. "As I say, Alex is Alex. I wish to accomplish half of what he's done. I think if I don't believe in myself, who will? If he's making those numbers in the NHL, why can't I? Until I stop playing, that's the way I will think."

The younger Tanguay can't be faulted for his optimism. His fast start for the Walleye this season indicates that whatever hardware, patches and plaques he's earned to this point, they are just the first trickle in a long stream of accolades. The creative center ranks second among ECHL rookies with 28 assists and third in points at 45.

Those early returns don't necessarily make him his brother's minor-league match, but Walleye coach Nick Vitucci sees and appreciates some familial connections.

"He's a very driven individual. He's got a very confident mindset," Vitucci said of Maxime. "He comes to the rink every day with a smile and works his tail off. They've kind of got that gift. They know what it takes to be a pro. Its family values that have been instilled along the way."

With a dynamic style that's a perfect match for his peppy personality, Tanguay is hard to miss on the ice. He wheels around in jersey No. 61, perhaps a tad showy for an ECHL newcomer, but so what? He was born on Nov. 16, and No. 16 was already taken in Toledo so Tanguay just reversed the digits.

"When you are young, playing minor hockey, you aren't allowed to wear high numbers," Tanguay said. "It's fun to wear the number you want. It (No. 61) sounds small and fast, that's what I'm trying to be."

Toledo fans would wince if they knew how close Tanguay came to putting those skills on display for the Dalhousie University instead of the Walleye this season.

Tanguay was a third-round pick by Chicago in 2007, but never signed with the Blackhawks. In part because of a knee injury, his 2007-08 season in the QMJHL was average:  7-9 in 26 games for Rimouski and 9-12 in 27 contests for Victoriaville. Even though he rebounded with 26-40 for the Tigres last season, pro interest in him was limited. He had a spot at Dalhousie all lined up.

"I was close, very close (to not playing professionally)," Tanguay said. "I would have said, 'I tried,' it didn't work."

Rockford diverted Tanguay from that course by signing him to an AHL/ECHL contract before the season started, and his arrival with the fledgling Walleye gave Vitucci a premiere playmaker.

"He's obviously very quick. He's one of those guys who has an offensive knack to him," Vitucci said. "He's got a good touch around the net to be a finisher. He's too giving on the ice. We're trying to convince him to be a little more greedy around the net."

Maxime has an ideal consultant just a phone call away, and he said he speaks to Alex several times a week. 

"My brother is a special kind. He's not that fast. His strength is really mental," Maxime said. "When I train with him, what impresses me is (his) making the great decisions on the ice. I'm kind of my brother's player. I love to make plays. I'm not really a shooter. I love creating plays, watching the guys, giving them the puck where they are going to be."

Maxime is realistic about how far and successfully he can follow his brother along that trail, but he still sees himself covering a lot of the same ground.

"Well, I wish. I need to believe it that way," he said. "I'll get it a different way than him. I won't have as nice a career as he does. I don't know what's coming for me, but I can certainly go my own way and achieve my own things."

And in the keepsake department, Maxime already has one that Alex can never match. Tanguay announced his arrival as a pro by appropriately scoring the first goal in Walleye history, Oct. 16 vs. Florida. Of course, he has that biscuit safely tucked away for future display.

"I've got the original puck I scored with. It means something," Tanguay said. "It's my first goal pro. And to be the first one in the history of Toledo, I want to keep it."

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