Yohe: The Penguins step forward for Chris Letang during a time of grief

Tempe, Arizona Pittsburgh Penguins They’re presupposed to be house with their households now, getting some relaxation after a 10-day street journey, and preparing for Canucks At PPG Paints Enviornment on Tuesday.

They don’t seem to be.

The penguins had simply been defeated Coyote, 4-1, Sunday evening, ending their six-game dropping streak. Their journey plan was to instantly return to Pittsburgh, the place that they had not been since leaving for the December 31 Winter Traditional.

As a substitute, they flew in the midst of the evening to Montreal, arriving at 4 am, then slept for a short time period earlier than attending the funeral of Claude Fouquet, father of Chris Letang.

Whereas the Penguins have been off on the western swing of the street journey that took them via Las Vegas and Phoenix, a number of the group’s veterans obtained along with the teaching workers to debate a shared need to attend Fouquet’s funeral in Quebec.

Not solely was Mike Sullivan concerned within the plan, he was additionally one of many individuals driving the choice.

The Penguins are then scheduled to move house later in the present day, after they will not have a lot time to arrange for Tuesday’s recreation.

However then, for this group, taking good care of his teammates is extra vital than getting a certain quantity of relaxation earlier than a recreation.

This can be a significantly vivid illustration of how vital Letang is to everybody on this group.

It has been a hellish season for 35-year-old Letang. What ought to have been a storybook chapter has was a nightmare. Letang signed a brand new six-year contract with the Penguins in July. Signing him was at all times their precedence, his dynamic bodily expertise mirroring these of the youthful man resulting from his extraordinary situation.

Signing Letang was good as a result of it occurred in Montreal, of all locations, his beloved hometown that additionally occurred to host the NHL Draft. So, Letang signed the deal in Montreal, town that ready him for it NHL stardom. Fouquet was additionally instrumental on this. He had his well being, his household, he thought the Penguins have been nonetheless Stanley Cup contenders, and he had six extra years within the black and gold.

The whole lot was good.

Till it was not.

In October and November, he performed maybe the worst hockey in his profession.

Letang suffered a stroke for the second time in his life on November 28, hours after the Penguins’ coaching. That he made his return to the NHL Championship in lower than two weeks is a testomony to his bravery and the unbelievable medical care he acquired from the athletic trainers and docs that day. Nonetheless, it was a traumatic expertise for Letang, his household, and his teammates.

Letang lastly began to play higher when he suffered a decrease physique harm that will have dominated him out of the Winter Traditional. However he by no means made his technique to Fenway Park in any respect, as a result of then information arrived that his father had died in Montreal.

“What a superb child,” former common supervisor Jim Rutherford mentioned. “He actually is. Life appears to have hit him the toughest. However he is arduous. He’ll be positive.”

Within the occasion that Letang wanted their help, his teammates made the choice to sacrifice time with their households to be with him in Montreal.

It was not a simple logistical challenge for the group. A high-ranking member of the Penguins’ entrance workplace needed to fly to Phoenix on Sunday with a field of necessities: Penguins’ passports. Their street journey took them to Boston, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. To enter Canada, passports are required.

So, with paperwork in hand after Sunday’s recreation, the Penguins lastly made the choice to attend the funeral. It was not a easy selection. The penguins needed to take into account that funerals are particular, emotionally charged experiences. They needed to be there, sure, however additionally they needed to respect Letang’s and his household’s privateness.

Letang was together with his teammates Sidney Crosby And Evgeny Malkin Since 2006. For 17 years, these three gamers have been the inspiration of the Penguins’ would possibly, and alongside the best way, it is develop into clear that the friendship these three share is stronger than the on-ice magic they nonetheless often show.

They’re greatest mates. When Crosby was honored for enjoying in 1,000 NHL video games two years in the past, he remained composed all through the ceremony.

Then, Letang’s and Malkin’s faces flashed on the scoreboard, every delivering a message. All of the sudden, tears flowed from Crosby’s face.

These are franchise icons, the three gamers accountable for a magical time in Pittsburgh sports activities historical past. Alongside the best way, they grew to become so shut that the concept of ​​taking part in another franchise this previous summer time all of a sudden appeared ridiculous. They have been brothers for all times, on and off the ice.

There have been tears in Montreal in the present day, too.

However I guess, on a really unhappy day for Letang and his household, the defender who’s been via rather a lot this season felt a bit higher, a bit extra supported, a bit extra cherished and a bit extra comfy. Understanding that Crosby and Malkin—together with 20 different colleagues—have been readily available got here in useful.

Good for penguins. Good for the property to deal with the funds of the transfer. Good for Sullivan and his workers for placing his teammate’s love forward of earlier plans. Good for the blokes who paid to be there for his or her brother.

Good for Letang too. He is residing his life the correct means, which is why he is so likable on this locker room. He misplaced a member of the family that he cherished, and that could be a very troublesome factor to recover from.

However he was surrounded by household in Montreal on Monday. A number of dozen kin should not blood kin, however they’re household nonetheless.

(Picture: Charles LeClair/USA Right now)

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