PHILADELPHIA — The Lightning had heard about the comments NESN’s Jack Edwards made during Tuesday’s broadcast poking fun at forward Pat Maroon’s weight, and after their 3-1 loss in Boston the words didn’t sit well inside the Tampa Bay locker room.
Maroon is not one to back away from a fight, and he jabbed back Wednesday by taking a stand against bullying and body-shaming. He posted on social media that he would donate $2,000 in Edwards’ name to Tampa Bay Thrives, a local non-profit that helps those struggling with mental health and substance-abuse issues, and encouraged others to do the same.
Midway through the first period of Tuesday’s game, Edwards — a longtime Bruins broadcaster and former ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor not known to pull punches — singled out Maroon by commenting on his listed weight of 238 pounds.
“That was Day 1 of training camp,” Edwards said on air, chuckling throughout the 40-second sequence. ”I have the feeling he’s had a few more pizzas between then and now.”
“And that’s before pregame,” chimed in broadcast partner and color analyst Andy Brickley.
“Fasting,” Edwards joked. “Inadvertent fasting for Pat Maroon is like four hours without a meal. But hey, three (Stanley) Cups in a row, who can argue with his formula?”
Maroon responded Wednesday afternoon via his personal Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“In support of those struggling with mental health, bullying and body image I am making a 2,000 donation in the name of @RealJackEdwards to @TampaBayThrives,” he posted, “and I encourage @TBLightning and @NHL fans to join me.”
Donations can be made at tampabaylightning.com/donate, Maroon added.
Within an hour and a half, Maroon’s Twitter post had 20,000 likes, and his Instagram post drew 5,000 likes. Edwards became a trending topic on Twitter, and Maroon’s teammates, hockey fans and members of the media helped to promote his campaign on social media. Steven Stamkos pledged a donation on Twitter.
The Carolina Hurricanes expressed support for Maroon and his cause and encouraged each of their fans to donate $19 “out of spite” for Edwards.
As of Wednesday evening, the Lightning Foundation, which will match donations made by Lightning players, had collected $30,000 for Tampa Bay Thrives.
Carrie Zeisse, the president and CEO of Tampa Bay Thrives, said the organization plans to use the funding to expand youth programs aimed at helping area kids break the stigma about asking for help with their mental health. This past fall, Tampa Bay Thrives partnered with the Lightning to host a full-day event at Amalie Arena called “Strike the Stigma” for high school students in the area.
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“We talked about exactly this in one of the sessions,” Zeisse said, “that the intention with which you talk to someone and what is behind your words and how it impacts mental health. It was amazing to see these kids in the room and how they responded to being safe, and having a conversation with peers in this way.
“These words really do matter, and Pat being so forward-thinking and coming out and making this part of the national conversation, I’m hoping that that will also reverberate, so that kids will feel better and see that. When they see a leader stepping forward, it just does so much.”
As a kid, Maroon battled naysayers telling him he was too heavy to have a career in hockey until he earned a spot on a junior team coached by current Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. Maroon is now in his 12th NHL season after establishing himself as one of the game’s top enforcers and glue guys on the ice and inside the locker room.
No player has won as many postseason games over the past four seasons as Maroon, who has played in each Stanley Cup final over that span. After winning the Cup with the Blues in 2019 (over the Bruins), Maroon won back-to-back championships in his first two seasons with the Lightning, becoming the first player to win three straight Cups with two teams since 1964.
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