Until Patrick Maroon finally, finally beat Ben Bishop 5:50 into the second overtime and put the Blues through to the Western Conference final, no player in the history of the NHL had ever scored a Game 7 overtime winner in his hometown. It’d been close, once, when in 1979 Yvon Lambert, out of Drummondville, Quebec, not far outside of Montreal, scored a sudden-death series winner for the Canadiens. But Drummondville is not Montreal. Pat Maroon was and is a St. Louis kid.
St. Louis is where Maroon grew up, and where his family had Blues season tickets, where he went to school, where he played junior hockey. Where he had an infant son, Anthony, whom he missed so badly while scuffling in the minors as a young player, even being cut from his AHL team, that he considered retiring from hockey just to go home to be with him.
After earning his way into the NHL and carving out a niche as a dependable depth winger in Anaheim and Edmonton and Newark, the local kid finally got an offer from the Blues last summer. But it wasn’t much of an offer. One year, $1.75 million. He had another offer worth twice as much. He had multiple offers for multi-year deals. But, as told in a great piece by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, Maroon decided the Blues’ contract promised things the others couldn’t. Like home, and his son.
When Maroon told Anthony this summer that he was staying in St. Louis — and that after his Sept. 2 birthday they wouldn’t have to say goodbye — the then-9-year-old didn’t quite understand. “He kind of just went to his room quietly, like he had to think about it,” [Maroon’s fiancée Francesca] Vangel says. “I don’t think it’s hit anyone yet what this really means.”
They’d figure it out soon. The first thing Maroon did after signing with the Blues was to buy his father season tickets; better seats than the ones they’d had when we was a kid. Being home means having your family in the house for all your home games, not just the odd St. Louis road trip. Having them all there for, say, your Game 7 double-overtime winner.
There were tears all over, and long after. Maroon’s mother, Patti, was still crying when she talked to a reporter in the Blues’ family room. “I didn’t see the goal when it went in,” she said. “People were saying: ‘Your son scored, your son scored.’”
(Anthony, by then, had recovered as only a 10-year-old can. “I taught him a few things,” he said of his father.)
Maroon himself tried to take stock of what the moment meant.
“It means the world,” Maroon said. “You’re playing street hockey and playing with your brothers or in your basement and you dream of those moments. To score a goal like that, I’ll never forget that moment. My fiancée, my son, my parents, my brother, my sister, my uncle, cousins, whatever, they’ll never forget this moment, and neither will I.”
As it happened, Game 7 would’ve had a hometown hero no matter who won the game. Stars goalie Ben Bishop, whose 52-save performance was the only thing that kept Dallas in it, is also from the area, having grown up in suburban St. Louis (before moving, for high school, to suburban Dallas). He and Maroon are friends, and every summer they come home to the area and golf together. Maroon couldn’t stop gushing about Bishop after this one, but, then, Maroon couldn’t stop gushing, period.
“I’m proud. I’m proud to be from St. Louis and I’m proud to put that jersey on every night and I’m proud to work hard in front of these fans and to work hard for these guys that deserve it in here, that have been here for so long and want nothing more [than] to win.”
And now St. Louis is in the final four, a miracle run for a team that looked dead in the water earlier this season—and for a franchise that has never won a Cup in its long history. If this team keeps going and keeps winning, it’s entirely possible that the Maroon hometown storyline gets done to death and you get sick of hearing about it. That’s fine. It wouldn’t make Tuesday night any less emotional for the Maroons or for Blues fans, and it doesn’t change the fact that, for all that sports sometimes has to stretch for narratives, every once in a while something really lovely happens.