If you love sports and are lucky enough to be born in or near the same town as your favorite team, you likely have dreamed about being Pat Maroon one day.
Maroon is a native of St. Louis and plays for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. And if that’s not cool enough, the Blues were at home Tuesday playing the Dallas Stars in Game 7 of their second-round Stanley Cup series.
How tied to his hometown is he? In 2002 he played in a Pee-Wee Tournament in Quebec representing the Blues. He went to Oakville High School, which is in St. Louis County. Yes, he’s as Blue blood as you can get.
In a very big way, Maroon had been waiting for Tuesday his entire life. And in a conversation with the media Tuesday morning, Maroon figured the team who cared the most about winning would do so.
And almost as if fated, it was Maroon camped at the doorstep of the Stars’ goalie Ben Bishop at 5:50 of the second overtime. And it was Maroon whose goal sent the Blues to the Western Conference finals with a 2-1 win.
“As a kid, playing in a basement, on the street, you always think about doing this,” Maroon said. “It’s unreal. It means the world. …I wanted it. That’s the biggest goal I ever scored. I wanted it. If I missed that, I’d be getting a lot of boos maybe.”
Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo was ecstatic for his teammate.
“He’s been working so hard,” he said. “What a cool moment for him.”
Robert Thomas of the Blues had just clanked a shot off the right post which then hit Bishop before falling into the crease. All Maroon needed to do was read and react.
“I saw an opening and I shot it,” said Thomas, who became just the third teenager in Stanley Cup history with more than one point in a Game 7. “He was there to bang it in.”
Now it’s St. Louis which awaits the winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche.
It was the second game-winning goal of the series for Maroon, who was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007 and had played for the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils.
And you know the Elias Sports Bureau would come up with a delicious nugget. Maroon and Yvon Lambert of Drummondville, Ouebec, which is near Montreal, are the only two hometown heroes to win an overtime Game 7 for their teams. Lambert potted his for the Canadiens in 1979.
Maroon’s loyalty to the Blues and his home were made clear this offseason when as a free agent from New Jersey he spurned better contract offers to play in St. Louis for $1.75 million. But it had not been a great season for him. In fact, he went 23 games without a goal and scored only 10 goals and 18 assists in 74 games.
His season closely mirrored that of his team, which fired coach Mike Yeo on Nov. 20 and on Jan.3 had the worst record in the NFL and were 11 points away from a Wild Card. But everything has turned around and with last season’s finalists, Washington and Vegas eliminated, the Blues have as much of a chance of winning the Cup as the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes do.
“These guys in here never give up,” Maroon said. “You can feel it in us. You can see it in guys’ eyes. Every shift. The determination.”
They have not been to the Stanley Cup finals for in 49 years, since losing the 1970 Finals to the Boston Bruins. One of the most famous photos in NHL history was taken during that series, the sight of Boston’s great Bobby Orr seemingly flying in the air after scoring. In fact, the Blues have only made it to the conference finals on four occasions since then.
But this has already been a wonderful playoff season for the NHL. Mixed in with the four-game sweeps, this is the first time three series were decided in overtime in Game 7 in the same year. The Sharks knocked out the Golden Knights and the Capitals were eliminated by the Hurricanes. Why not St. Louis?
To be honest, it seemed the Blues had no shot to win this game. They were outshot 31-4 by Dallas in the second and third period and Bishop (a career-high 52 saves) was having a remarkable night. He’d stopped 47 straight shots until Maroon ended the streak. But Blues goalie Jordan Binnington was just as good. With the help of his defenders, he allowed only four goals in the final three games of the series.
After the game was over, Maroon had he could see his son, Anthony, crying in the stands.
“I saw him and I pointed to him,” Maroon said. “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.”
On the Blues Twitter site Wednesday was a clear indication about how the organization felt about all of this:
“Do or Die? Pat Maroon choses Do.”