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Talbot's Visit to Hillman Cancer Center Puts Smiles On Patients' Faces

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
It’s no secret that Penguins center Maxime Talbot is among the best personalities on the roster. His playful demeanor and natural exuberance helps to keep teammates sane throughout the rigorous journey an 82-game regular season provides.

Talbot’s ability to make others feel good about themselves stretches beyond the walls of the locker room. Talbot displayed that character trait last Thursday afternoon when he took time to visit the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside.

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Making hospital visits is nothing new to Talbot, who often visits Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville to meet with young kids. However, Talbot’s visit to the Hillman Center – which was his first – hit home for the 26-year-old, as his mother, Lucie, is a breast cancer survivor.

“My mom had breast cancer, so this is a cause that has obviously touched my heart,” Talbot said. “I had a free afternoon, so I wanted to take the chance to stop by and talk to them and hopefully entertain them a bit.”

Talbot knows how tough undergoing chemotherapy can be because he, his father Serge and his two brothers all had to lend a helping hand getting his mom through her ordeal.

“When my mom had cancer, sometimes it was tough to go to chemo,” Talbot said. “There were times when my dad couldn’t go with her, so places like (the Hillman Center) offer something for them.”

As Talbot got set to enter the facility at about 2 p.m., he had one goal for his visit.

“The only reason that you come and do something like this is to make them forget about their pain,” Talbot said. “You want to try to give them a chance to just have some happy thoughts for a couple hours.”

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take Talbot long to put a smile on a patient’s face.

Talbot’s first stop was by the bed of die-hard Penguins fan Julie Crist of Bloomfield. Crist barely allowed Talbot a chance to introduce himself before she had to let him know he is on her fantasy hockey team.

“We just picked you on our fantasy team last week,” Crist exclaimed.

“Well, I did score a goal (last Wednesday) night (against Toronto),” said Talbot, who signed autographed hats for each patient he visited. “I would say that Sidney Crosby would be a good choice for your team. I don’t know about me.

“But I’ll try to get more goals for you guys.”

As Talbot made his way to visit more patients, Crist, who is battling non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, spoke about how much getting to meet one of her favorite players meant to her.

“I was all miserable and half asleep before he came,” Crist said. “He definitely brought a smile to my face.”

The next fan Talbot visited, Donna Rodgers of Hermitage, brought a smile to Talbot’s face as she had the morning paper, which featured a photo of Talbot scoring a goal against the Maple Leafs, ready for him to sign.

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“That’s me!” Talbot exclaimed upon walking into the room and having Rodgers hand him the paper. That’s a bad picture, actually.”

Talbot spent about an hour at the Hillman Center chatting with fans about many various topics including the Penguins new arena, the Paul McCartney concert, the Penguins and Steelers befriending and rooting for each other, Penn State football and Philadelphia Phillies baseball.

Susan Frank, the director of operations at the Hillman Center, said visits like the one Talbot provided on Thursday provide an inspiration to both patients and staff.

“The patients and staff are always excited when a guy like Max comes to visit,” Frank said. “The days here are long for everybody, so this really does bring a real sense of excitement. You can hear the joy in the patients’ voices.”

One of those patients, Laura Schmitt from the North Hills – an avid Talbot fan who wore a jersey with his No. 25 on the back during the Toronto game – echoed Frank’s sentiments.

“It was so nice to have Max come by today,” Schmitt said. “I was feeling really down and out and he lifted my spirits greatly. I really enjoyed interacting with him and telling him I want to see a home victory!”

Sounds like Talbot more than accomplished his goal of hoping to entertain the Hillman Center patients.

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