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Eye of the Tiger

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
There were two Maxime Talbots at the Pittsburgh Zoo on Friday – one is a beast in the jungle, one is a beast on the ice.

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Maxime Talbot the tiger is named after Maxime Talbot the hockey player, and the Penguins forward actually got to meet his namesake on Friday.

“It was amazing. It was really cool,” Talbot said of his experience. “It was a nice experience and an honor to have a tiger named after me. It was really cool to meet him and get that close.”

The tiger is an Amur tiger, formerly known as a Siberian tiger. It comes from southern Russia, which is part of the reason the name Maxime (nicknamed Max) Talbot came about.

“We always try to get names from the region the animal is found in,” said Kathy Suthard, the zoo’s lead keeper of carnivores. “So when we knew we were having cubs, we looked up some of the Russian names and we had always liked the name Max. So the first thing you think of is Max Talbot, he’s a well-known guy. So this is little Max Talbot, he’s going to grow up and this will make him big and strong and this is a great name.”

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The afternoon began with Talbot meeting someone else’s namesake – his road roommate Marc-Andre Fleury’s.

Many of the actual penguins at the Pittsburgh Zoo are named after Penguins players, and Talbot got to spend some time with Fleury, a female macaroni penguin.

“I knew it!” Talbot joked when he discovered that Fleury’s namesake was female. “I’ll make fun of him for a couple days. And then after that, I’m still going to make fun of him.”

Talbot stopped to interact with Fleury the penguin, even getting to hold her for a moment before the bird’s furious flapping caused him to set her back down.

Talbot and Fleury the penguin then walked side-by-side back into the building – with Talbot even mimicking the penguin’s signature waddle.

“I think it was holding her, and she was flapping her wings,” Talbot said of what he enjoyed most about his time with Fleury the penguin. “But I liked to see her walk as well.”

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He then drove a golf cart to the area of the zoo where the tigers are housed and went down to meet Max Talbot the cub tiger.

With the guidance of Suthard, Talbot coaxed the baby tiger over to him and fed him some meat. Tigers as young as Max can be shy around people, but the cub instantly approached his namesake – responding right away to the name “Max.”

“He does know his name, you can always tell when an animal has the right name when they learn it quickly,” Suthard said. “So he knows his name. It’s perfect.”

Talbot the hockey player then interacted with Talbot the tiger’s parents, mother Toma and father Taiga. Taiga is a magnificent beast that weighs about 400 pounds, which is what his son will eventually reach.

“They say Max is going to be about that weight, so it’s pretty cool to have something like this named after you,” Talbot said. “To have animals named after us is an honor for all the guys.”

Max Talbot Visits the Pittsburgh Zoo
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