Courtesy: staal4pm of hockeyfights.com
Hey guys, I'm sure most of you Pittsburgh guys have seen some of your players around town but Sunday night here in Raleigh I saw a couple of them out and it proved to be a very interesting time. I thought some of the boys here would appreciate a tale like this but couldn't find the proper place to post it so I figured here would be as good a place as any. I swear that every word of this story is 100% true. It is titled “Penguins Bar Story” or “The Night Maxime Talbot called my friend a p**sy”. Anyways on with the show....
So Sunday night (May 24th), I was taking my girl out to dinner. We were going to this place called Bogart's because I had a coupon and it was the only way I could afford it but of course they were closed for dinner on Sundays. It wasn't too bad because we were in an area of downtown called Glenwood South, a trendy area filled with lots of restaurants, bars, and clubs that the city has poured a lot of money into over the past 10 years. It's paid off pretty well and it's where any and every celebrity who comes in to town goes for a night out. In the blocks around that end of Glenwood Avenue, you'll find every type of watering hole you've ever imagined from dive bars to yuppy hang outs to ritzy $20 covers to college and post-college hangouts to dance clubs to bars where the lawyers, lobbyists, and government officials hang out to sports bars to happy hours. You get the idea...if you're looking to bar hop, get a fancy meal, or just generally blow some money in Raleigh this is where you go. A lot of the Hurricanes come here; when I was in college Mike Commodore and Chad LaRose would always be at this Irish placed called the Hibernian, Rod Brind'Amour would hang out at a cigar bar called Havana's after his divorce, and all the puck bunnies would go to Lucky B's, a bar opened and owned by former Cane and Leaf Bates Battaglia.
But back to the story. We go a couple blocks up to a placed called Sushi Blues. It's a small, dark place with one main dining room that can fit maybe 60 on a good night. This being a Sunday on a long weekend in a city where the beach is 2 hours away, we pretty much had our pick of the place. There were three other couples and then a loud, boisterous group of guys, 9 of them, in the back wrap-around booth. We took a table in the middle about 10 feet from them. At first they were just being a little loud and some spoke in French. I didn't think anything of it, a lot of the software and computer companies bring in Europeans on exchange programs and they always flock to Glenwood. So after a few minutes they start throwing lemon wedges at each other and begin to laugh loudly...like way too loud to be laughing when you're in a dark, quasi-romantic setting in a dining room that's maybe at a third capacity. I was like, what the hell, I just want to eat. At this point I hadn't paid much attention but the prospect of wayward flying lemon wedges made me pick my head up.
Holy shyt, I'm glad I did. Because one of them leans over to grab a wedge and, friends, it is none other than Sidney Crosby. I nearly choke on my Molson and whisper to my girlfriend, wide-eyed, "Kate, holy sh*t, Sidney Crosby is sitting at that booth behind us. I swear to God it's Sidney f***ing Crosby!" She says, “no way”, turns around to look, then says, “Oh my god, you're right! Who all is with him?”
Now for this part of the story, you need to know that I am without a doubt the biggest hockey fan in all of Raleigh. I played when I was younger, my dad is from Pittsburgh (well, Sewickley) and I grew up a huge Pens fan, I did an exchange program in the Spring of 2007 in Vancouver and went to all but 3 games in GM Place including the playoffs that half of the season, 90% of the books I own are hockey-related, etc, etc. I know my stuff. So now that I'm really looking at these guys, I pick them all out. On the back booth from left to right is Pascal Dupuis, Crosby, Mathieu Garon, Maxime Talbot, and Philippe Boucher. Facing away from me across from them in chairs from left to right are Kris Letang, Tyler Kennedy, Rob Scuderi, and Marc-Andre Fleury. I rub my eyes to make sure I'm really seeing what I think I'm seeing and take a swill of beer. I'm sitting 10 feet away from the best player in the world and three of my favorite current players (Kennedy, Talbot, and Boucher). This is crazy. Of all the places to eat on Glenwood, this is where we picked and they just happened to be there.
Well our food comes so I'm sitting and dividing my attention equally between eating, listening to whatever it was my girlfriend was saying at the time, and watching this group of Penguins. Their bill comes and they all give their cards to Talbot, who puts them in his napkin, gathers up the corners, gives them a shake, and instructs the waitress to pick three. I've read about this in the past, but didn't know that it actually still happened today. The waitress picks one and calls it out, “Kristopher?” They all laugh and he takes three checks and his card. Next she picks another, “Mathieu?” More laughs and three checks and a card to Garon. Finally she reaches for one more as Fleury says, “There's no way it can be me again”. The waitress pauses and finally says, “Philippe?” but pronounced “Felipe”. Uproarious laughter now occurs and even I have a chuckle. “FELIPPEEE!” comes the roars and laughter. He takes the remaining checks and says, “That's about enough for me, boys”.
As he's walking out, I stop him and say, “Hey, man I'm glad you're back playing. I was a big fan when you were in Dallas. Good luck getting your ring, you really deserve it.” He says, “Thank you, I really appreciate it” and extends his hand to shake. By this point all of them have gotten up and Talbot walks over so I say, “You too, Max. If you guys are going to sweep us at least finish the job and get your Cup this year. I'll be rooting for ya, anyway.” Talbot says, “Hey man, thanks a lot. Are you from Pittsburgh?” I respond, “No, but my dad is and he’s a huge Pens fan. He would flip his sh*t if he saw you guys.”
As the other 7 players at the table finish their drinks, our conversation continues. “Ha, cool man,” Talbot says, “Do you have a camera on you? I’m sure I could convince the boys to pose for a picture for an old fan.” I say, “Man, I don’t but I appreciate you offering. I’m sure you guys get bothered all the time for that.” He laughs and says, “Well, some more than others,” as he motions towards Crosby who, like the rest of the group, has now gotten up to leave. I say, “Ha, yeah. Well good luck, Max. Nice talking with you.” He says, “Sure, man you too,” and I go down the handshake line: “Good luck, Tyler”, “Good luck, Rob”, “Good luck, Sid”, etc. Lost in this account is the fact the players also acknowledged my girlfriend. But that’s unimportant to the story.
After they had gotten out of the door I look at my girlfriend and we both have the same look on our faces: That…was…AWESOME! After a few minutes of excitedly recounting to each other what we had just seen and how cool it was our food comes. I ask the waitress, “Did those guys tip well?” and motioned toward the table where they had been sitting. She says, “Yeah, about 50%. Most of the Bruins were cheapskates so I’m glad all hockey players aren’t that way.” As she leaves my girlfriend says, “They’re still out there. I wonder what they’re doing?...Hey, one’s coming back in. Maybe he forgot something. He’s coming over here!”
“Hey, man,” I hear from behind me, “where would you go if you were looking for good scotch.” I turn and it’s Talbot, asking me for advice on where to get sloshed! I tell him, “Sullivan’s right up the street has the largest selection in town, I’m pretty sure. It’s kind of an old guys’ bar, but it’s a nice place and you won’t find more scotch in one place. If you go left out of here, it’s two blocks up on the right.” He says, “Thanks buddy, I knew you would know. You’re more than welcome to come down for a drink after you finish up here, if you want.” I’m sorry, what? Did you just ask us to hang out with you? Hiding my shock I say, “Yeah man, maybe we’ll see you down there.” He thanks me, heads back out the door, and they head up the street.
“Brooks, we have to go!” my girlfriend half yells, almost before Talbot got out the door. “I know it’s expensive, but holy sh*t, half of the Pittsburgh Penguins just asked us to drink with them!” Expensive is an understatement. Only lawyers and professionals with 6-plus figure incomes drink there. A high ball of mid-grade scotch will run you about $15. It’s not cheap. But, what the hell, she was right. This is like something out of a movie, except that it’s actually happening. “I say, you’re right. Maxime Talbot basically just said, ‘Hey Brooks, you’re a cool guy, we should hang out.’ We’ll just go and get whatever is cheapest.”
We finish up and head over to Sullivan’s. I had never been to the bar there before. I had only been there once, for dinner after my college graduation a year before. But it was your classic old oak bar with shirt-and-ties huddled at a few tables probably discussing budgets or bills or how to impeach our governor, Jim Balsillie style. And then there were the 9 Penguins up at the bar with 4 bottles of $120 scotch being just as loud and jovial as they were at the previous place. These guys weren’t just looking to tie one on after a late dinner, they were looking to get hammered. Only this time, I didn’t mind. It was cool. We were cool.
I said, “Kate, I’m nervous you go first.” She says, “No way, you were the one doing most of the talking. You go.” I say, “I know but what do I do. Walk up and tap him on the shoulder? ‘Hey Max, remember us? You said to come for a drink? Remember?’” I felt like I was in high school, trying to approach a prospective prom date. Super gay, I know. As I stood there and planned my move, Tyler Kennedy looks up and shouts, “Hey! Over here!” as he and Talbot motion for us to come over. So we do. As we get up there, Max asks, “What are you having? You both like scotch?” We both say yeah – who doesn’t like a good glass of scotch – especially one you don’t have to pay for. Over the next hour, Kate and I carry on lengthy conversations with all of them (Crosby included, who actually isn’t that bad of a guy) about everything from Pittsburgh, old Pens games I’d been to, hockey in general, how we got into it, Raleigh, and what we do for a living. At this point I decide that this is one of the best nights of my life, right up there with the time I lost my virginity, the Canes won the Cup, and even the best college parties.
And then it happened. It’s about 11:15 and the last call bell rang. I know it’s early and a holiday weekend but it was a Sunday night and we are in the Bible belt. The bottles of scotch were empty and the last of the scotch in the glasses was being downed. Kate and I walked around the group one last time and thanked them for letting us join them, wished them best of luck in the games to come, said how cool it was to meet them, and got some final hand shakes. The last three were Talbot, Kennedy, and Letang and those are the ones that we had talked to the most.
I said, “Hey Max, thanks so much for inviting us out, man, it was a blast.” He said, “No problem, buddy, it was a good time. It just sucks that last call is so early here.” I replied, “Well, you know last call in North Carolina isn’t until 2:00. They’re probably just closing up shop because it’s an old timers’ place and there aren’t a lot of people left.” There were only about 20 left in the bar, of which there were 2 bartenders, two cocktail waitresses, and our group of 13 (Chris Minard and Ben Lovejoy had since joined).
And then came the question from Maxime Talbot that turned the night from just a cool story and a great memory into an epic: “Well, where do you like to go on Sunday nights?” With those 10 words, Max went beyond seeking my advice on which local bars to go to and directly asked me to take him, Tyler Kennedy, and Kris Letang to a bar. I said, “If I go out on a Sunday night I go to the Goat. It’s a real dive, a hole in the wall, but it’s cool. It’s cheap, which doesn’t really concern you guys, but on Sundays they have $1 mystery beers so it’s like an adventure while you’re getting drunk.”
Friends, let me tell you about the Goat. It is as its name, and nickname, suggests: The Little Bar That Could. This place is well away from downtown, about 15 minutes, getting out in the suburbs about a mile past NC State University where I went. When I say it’s a dive, IT IS A DIVE. It’s a sh**hole, really. It’s small, if there’s 50 people in there it’s packed. The ratio stays equal but the girls are evenly split between cougars, fat chicks, and easy sluts. It’s smoky. They have those bar video game machines with nudie Photo Hunt that have just epic high scores. But for some reason, they have nice plasma TVs. Like, really nice. Too nice to be at a place like that. I only know about it because I lived in a house in a neighborhood across the street for a year in college and we could walk there, get housed, and then walk back. The clientele is a mix between college kids, locals, rednecks, hippies, and passersby. It’s impossible to get a feel for the crowd. It’s just the Goat.
“Cool man, you want to share a cab there?” You’re d*mn right I do, but I can’t leave my car on Glenwood. We’re talking $200 after they boot you and THEN give you a ticket in the most ridiculous back-ass-wards fashion. I said, “I would but I can’t my car here. My apartment’s on the way, we can take a cab from there.” They agreed and 5 minutes later, I’m driving towards my apartment with Kris in my shotgun seat, and my girlfriend making up the meat of a Penguins sandwich in the back seat. By the time we get there, Max and Tyler have to take a leak so we all head up the steps. I have my hockey bag in the floor in the living room with my stick out. I have devised this game where I shoot one of those basketballs for the hoops you hang on your door at my wall. But I have to hit certain specific spots. It’s like Horse. I explain the game to Letang and we end up playing. He beats me mercilessly.
We get a cab and go to the Goat. The details are foggy, at best, from this point on. We only have 2 hours at the bar but we make the most of it. There are two tales I can really remember. One was when we first walked in. I see two of my friends playing Photo Hunt, both are huge Flyers fans who at this point were cheering for the Canes because they were playing the Pens and I want to play a joke on them. I talk it over with Max, Tyler, and Kris and they’re all down. So I walk up to my buddies and start shooting the sh*t about the current series. I shift the conversation to Talbot and about what a great move it was for him to challenge Dan Carcillo in Game 6 of that series, knowing that would set him off. He’s one of those guys that thinks he can take on the world after a few beers. I motion for the Pens to start making their way over. Just in time my buddy says, “I would kick Talbot’s ass if I saw him”. Max gives him a little push in the back and says, “What did you say, P*SSY?!” My buddy turns and looks like he had just seen a ghost. I couldn’t play it off anymore and we all burst out laughing. I explained to him the night’s events and he apologized to Max profusely.
Second was when we were drinking some beers and watching Sportscenter. Barry Melrose came on and then they started showing series highlights which to that point included Games 1-3. I thought that was cool in itself; sitting in a bar having a beer with guys that were on highlights on ESPN. But then they started busting each others’ chops. They showed the end of game scrum in Game 2 with Tim Gleason filling in Kris. Max and Tyler were laughing and Tyler even said, “Wooo Tanger look at that! Thank you sir may I have another!” Kris just shook his head. He had a bit of a shiner still but whether that came from Gleason’s punches or Ryan Bayda’s elbow or stick I have no idea. Then they showed Kennedy’s goal and he turned to me and said, “Yeah, you like that sh*t don’t you?”
All in all it was freakin great, without a doubt the best night of my life. Even as we started drinking heavier and details got sparse, pieces are still slowly coming back which make the experience all the more awesome. We even exchanged phone numbers after with them saying they would call whenever they came into town. And Max said he would get me tickets for the next game in Pittsburgh. I see this as the beginning of a long, beautiful, totally hetero, totally lucrative friendship for me. That would be awesome.