ST. LOUIS — The cheers for Pat Maroon drowned out the video to honor him. He may be the opponent now, but St. Louis still has love for the native who helped win the Stanley Cup.
The Blues held a small ceremony before Tuesday’s game against the Lightning to recognize Maroon and present him with his Stanley Cup ring.
Maroon held back emotions, heaving big breaths, as he watched the video highlighting his season with the Blues. It started with when he first reported to the team, saying “can you imagine” winning the Cup with his hometown team and ended with the parade celebration.
“It was very special. I didn’t think it was going to be like that,” Maroon said. “It was a good, warm welcome back for me and my family. It’s a memory I’ll never forget.”
A big smile broke across Maroon’s face as he tried on the giant ring adorned with a diamond-Cup and sapphire Blues logo. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong tapped Maroon to remind him to show the camera.
“Playing at home and doing something special always has a place in my heart,” Maroon said before the game. “It’s really exciting for me and my family.”
His father Phil Maroon watched from the box of Lightning fathers on the annual dads trip. His fiancé Francesca Vangel and son Anthony watched from just outside the boards. Francesca looked to be holding back tears n.
Armstrong called Maroon a few days before and told the forward they’d like to formally present him with his ring before the game. Typically, those exchanges happen in private earlier in the day. But the Blues made a point to offer some public recognition of the St. Louis native who scored a few key goals, including the Game 7-winner in double-overtime in the Western Conference Final.
“They didn’t have to do that ceremony for me and they did,” Maroon said. “Hats off to the fans for the applause. That was a really good standing ovation. Those are the Blues fans, very loyal.”
Fans started with a light applause for Maroon when he was shown during warmups. When he was recognized, the ovation demonstrated the obvious strong feelings between him, this team and this city. Even in the game, when Maroon was announced serving Andrei Vasilevskiy’s penalty, there was a cheer.
Watching his former teammates get their ring in a large ceremony and then raise the banner at the season opener had stung a bit for Maroon. His family was on hand to witness the celebration, but he had to watch it on TV from Tampa.
This was his chance to share that final celebration and take home the ultimate memento of a championship: the ring.
Asked before the game if he thought Maroon might tear up during the ceremony, coach Jon Cooper said before the game that he hoped he did.
“I think emotions are great,” Cooper said. “When they come out, you know what it shows. It shows that you care. I know the fans in St. Louis adore him.”
The coach also anticipated an array of emotions himself. Cooper and Maroon go all the way back to Texarkana Bandits in 2005. Maroon was a 16-year-old juniors rookie and Cooper was in his third season as a head coach.
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They won the North American Hockey League championship in their second year together. Cooper said that, his first championship, helped him get to where he is now. He’s been watching Maroon fight through ups and downs to get to last year’s storybook ending.
“It’s going to be a great moment not only for him but also for us who have been a part of the journey along the way,” Cooper said.
As special as this moment was for Maroon, it was only part of what made this trip home meaningful. When he was asked about returning to St. Louis, before any mention of the Cup, a ring or hockey, Maroon brought up his son.
He doesn’t get much time with the 11-year-old, living and working 1,000 miles away. For the eight seasons not spend with the Blues, Maroon has always looked forward to this trip for the chance to see Anthony.
This is a brief trip, Maroon was only in St. Louis for about 31 hours and much of that was spent sleeping and playing hockey.
“It’s tough,” he said. “You have eight hours, then he goes to school the next day. We have 25 minutes after the game. Is that what we get? Seeing his face, seeing his smile, that’s the most important thing. It’s not a lot but it’s something.”
And it was a little more to have Anthony on hand for Tuesday’s ceremony.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.