OAKVILLE, Mo. — Pat Maroon knows how to throw a party. When he brought the Stanley Cup back to his hometown in September, it sent locals scurrying to meet up with him.
Maroon is a proud member of the Lightning, a vocal veteran leader and enforcer, but he’s a son of Oakville, Mo., located about 20 minutes south of St. Louis along the western banks of the Mississippi with a population just over 36,000.
His jersey hung in the local sports bars for years, then he became a hometown hero in St. Louis when he sent the Blues to the Stanley Cup final with a double-overtime goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final. That win against the Dallas Stars in 2019 helped propel the Blues to their first Cup title.
Now he receives standing ovations at St. Louis Cardinals games, with tickets left for him and wife Francesca by owner Bill DeWitt Jr. Even though he plays for Tampa Bay, St. Louis embraces his rare feat of winning three straight Cups.
“I used to be just a regular guy who plays in the NHL,” Maroon said. “It’s changed dramatically. I think that (2019) goal itself puts me up there. I think maybe if I don’t score that goal, I’m not as big. But the city is taking good care of me. You can give back to the community. You can talk to your fans, you can talk to the people that support you still and it’s been a blessing.”
When Maroon brought the Cup to Oakville, something he couldn’t do after winning his first title with the Lightning because of the pandemic, he started with a visit to his old high school. He was the guest of honor at a 1,765-student assembly, then continued with a cavalcade along Telegraph Road — the main drag of Oakville — to stops at five local restaurants and watering holes.
“There were so many posts that day, like ‘He’s here, he’s here, now go there, go here,’” said Oakville High’s Chase Skaggs. “I remember after school people would be driving so fast at the parking lot because they knew where he’d be.”
Yes, he brought the Cup home with him, but people being drawn to Maroon is nothing new. He is one of the Lightning’s elder statesmen at 33, but also makes himself accessible to young players because that’s what veterans did for him when he was starting out. When he played in Edmonton, he took budding superstars like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl under his wing, and in Tampa, he does the same.
Maroon’s father, Phil, said it wasn’t always that way. His youngest son was an introvert as a kid, spending time in the family garage by himself, flicking a ball off the wall with a hockey stick. He was diagnosed with a learning disability early on, and Maroon’s father credits his high school resource teacher, Patti Higgins, for helping him through school.
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“He was really not comfortable in school because he’s a visual learner,” Phil Maroon said. “And I think why he caught up with hockey so well is because they show you how to do things and he can respond to that.”
Maroon grew up a Blues fan. His father had season tickets and Maroon’s first games were at the old St. Louis Arena, where he watched Blues greats like Brett Hull and Adam Oates. Roller hockey was Maroon’s first love, and his local team was one of the best in the country. He was actually cut the first time he tried out for the local youth St. Louis AAA Blues team because the coach, former Blues player Jeff Brown, thought he was too committed to roller hockey.
As a kid, Maroon was told he had potential, but was too heavy until he emerged from a tryout with the Texarkana Bandits junior team coached by the Lightning’s Jon Cooper. Cooper created a group for players who needed extra conditioning called the “Chub Club.” In Maroon’s second year with the team, it moved to St. Louis and won a NAHL championship. Maroon scored 95 points in 57 regular season games and 23 more in the 12-game postseason.
Maroon has been back to his old high school several times, and his interaction with the students there in September left a lasting impression. Now his photo is on the wall in the lobby as one of the most recent entrants to the Mehlville School District’s alumni Hall of Fame.
“The whole experience for me was really cool,” said Oakville High’s Katie Schroeder, who worked with Skaggs on a video package of Maroon’s visit for their broadcast class. “We got to touch the Cup. We got to have a long conversation with him. It seemed like he wanted to give us these experiences as well for our futures.”
In an effort to support Oakville’s restaurants hit hard by the pandemic, Maroon would purchase food from local establishments like the Blarney Stone, where his Blues jersey hangs on the wall, and deliver meals to area hospitals and first responders.
“I think it means a lot to this town,” said Tom Bowe, the general manager of the Blarney Stone. “He’s someone that the young kids could look up to, try to be like him. He’s done a lot for the community. So it’s nice to see that, you know, he didn’t forget where he came from.”
When Maroon first made the NHL with the Ducks, one of his first autograph signings was at Oakville Sports Pub. In September, the pub was the final stop on his Cup celebration through town.
Maroon’s Anaheim jersey hangs in the pub, and he stops by in the offseason, gets a bucket of beers and plays cornhole with friends.
“He’s a man of the people,” Phil Maroon said. “He just loves being around people. And he loves having fun.”
He’s often recognized, but never dodges anyone. Colleen Miskovic, co-owner of the Oakville Sports Pub, said she offered Maroon a private area where he wouldn’t be bothered, but he embraced the attention.
“Somebody came out on the patio and saw him and ran inside and told the whole bar, ‘Hey, Pat Maroon’s here,’” Miskovic recalled. “So (Maroon) got up and he walked in the side door. He’s like, ‘Hey, everybody!’ He was talking to everybody, was just very nice. He’s just very thankful. You can’t really miss him, but he’s like this gentle giant.”
You never know when Maroon might step through an Oakville door.
“It’s got that small town feel, everyone kind of knows each other,” Maroon said. “So it’s always nice to get out ... and have a couple of beers and you know, mingle with old friends, new friends and just have a conversation.”
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