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Letang Knew COVID-19 Would Hit Hard; ‘Jacked Up’ After ’09 Talbot Fight



Pittsburgh Penguins Kris Letang

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is figuratively one of the locker room news anchors. During the first NHL video chat in mid-March, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby dubbed Letang the player who knows what’s happening.

Tuesday afternoon, the Penguins held another video chat with their star defenseman who was honest about the situation he saw approaching and the severity.

“We were following it for a little bit at my house. I was aware that it was going to hit hard in the U.S., esp when we were on the West Coast. I was washing my hands and stay away from people best I could,” Letang said. “As you saw players testing positive you knew it was going to hit us in Columbus.”

The Penguins were scheduled to play in Columbus on March 11 as the state of Ohio began the coronavirus shutdown and self-quarantine measures. Initially, the game was set to be played without fans, but the Columbus Blue Jackets later postponed the game. The NHL suspended the season, shortly thereafter.

The Penguins narrowly avoided one hotbed. The Staples Center in Los Angeles appears to be the common denominator among three Ottawa Senators players who tested positive for COVID-19, and two Colorado Avalanche players who also tested positive.

Additional performers and athletes who played at the Staples also contracted the virus, likely from surfaces or people at the arena. The LA Times estimated half of the NBA cases were linked to the Staples Center. The Penguins played there in late February, days before the outbreak.

Kris Letang Workouts

Typically, during breaks or offseasons, players have the ability to work on parts of their game, or at minimum keep skating. However, the virus has closed most or all ice rinks in North America, so players don’t have the ability to hit the ice.

“Everyone will be on the same level. What’s hard is we don’t have access to gyms or skates. You’re left with whatever is at your house or outdoors,” Letang said. “That’s the difficulty of getting back into it as quick as possible.”

Whether the NHL allows teams to reopen their home rinks or chooses neutral sites to return to play, players will need a training camp to get ready. The popular timeframe used is a two-week camp.

“It may take three weeks of playing and practicing to get back to speed. It’ll be hard,” Letang admitted. “But you won’t see a difference between teams bc everyone is in the same boat.”

And Letang was asked about his precocious son, Alex, who stole the show at the All-Star Game.  The Penguins defenseman said he enjoys homeschooling Alex because “I’m learning more things and can practice my English.”


With the recent AT&T Sports airing of classic Penguins games, Kris Letang was asked about the famous 2009 Max Talbot “shush” after he fought then-Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo. The Penguins rallied to win that game and the series.

“I was jacked up. Max was such a great teammate, a good friend of mine,” said Letang. “To see him step up like that and do that for his team shows he was willing to do anything it takes to change the momentum and win the game.”