Pat Maroon expected his return to his hometown of St. Louis to face the team he won a Stanley Cup with last season would be emotional.
That, however, was before he found out he would be presented with his Championship ring by Blues general manager Doug Armstrong during a special pregame ceremony at Enterprise Center.
Maroon played an integral role in helping the St. Louis Blues win their first ever Stanley Cup following a Game 7 victory over the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. And as a favorite son of St. Louis, his return is sure to bring back a lot of memories for fans and Maroon alike.
Blues fans might want to bring a tissue or two just in case.
Heck, Maroon might need one too.
"I'm excited, excited to see the ring. It's been long. I've been waiting for it for too long, but I'm really excited," Maroon said while a throng of reporters gathered around his visitors locker room stall at Enterprise Center. "It's going to be cool. It's going to be an emotional night. It's going to be a fun night, obviously a lot of friends and family in the stands tonight to watch. I'm excited."
Most of the time when players who leave an organization after winning a Stanley Cup return for the first time as a visitor, they're presented their Championship ring either in the locker room or in a non-public area. Armstrong, however, called Maroon a couple days before the Tampa Bay Lightning were scheduled to take on the Blues in St. Louis and told him about his plan to hold the ceremony before puck drop.
Maroon was game.
"It's good to catch up with all the guys this morning," Maroon said, referring to his chance to meet former teammates and staffers before the Lightning's morning skate Tuesday at Enterprise Center. "Most of those guys over there are good friends of mine and will continue to be good friends. We have memories that will last a lifetime and we're always going to get together, so it was good to catch up with them."
Maroon scored 10 goals and chipped in 28 points in 74 regular season games in his lone season with the Blues. In the playoffs, however, Maroon repeatedly proved his worth, scoring three goals and adding four assists over the 26-game run to the Stanley Cup. His Game 7, double overtime goal in the Western Conference Semifinals against Dallas is the biggest goal he's ever scored and remains a fixture on St. Louis local television, the goal being replayed all summer while the Blues celebrated the first Stanley Cup in the organization's 52-season history.
"It really hasn't come full circle for me. I still can't believe it. I guess when I see the ring, I'll believe it I guess," Maroon said. "Those guys got to see their name during the ring presentation, I haven't seen my name on the Cup. Obviously through pictures but when you witness it in person, you see everything in person, you kind of feel like this is the real thing. This really happened. I'm looking forward to it. Tonight's going to be a special night."
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said Maroon gives the Lightning a "bigger, down-low presence" that they haven't had a whole lot of during his coaching tenure. He's also a "glue guy" that helps fill the leadership void from the departures of Ryan Callahan and Anton Stralman and the retirement of Dan Girardi. Watching him receive his Championship ring in front of his hometown fans will be an exciting moment not only for Maroon, Cooper said, but for himself and his Bolts as well.
"There will be an array of emotions going through with me no question," Cooper said. "I've been in his corner for many years now. He's a big reason I'm standing here today. Our first championship here back in 2006-07 [with the St. Louis Bandits of the NAHL], we couldn't have done it without Patty. When you win championships, it kind of puts your name on the map a little bit. He doesn't realize it, but he really helped me out. To watch his journey and everything he's accomplished along the way -- and it wasn't all ups, there were some downs along the way -- to watch him fight through it and then kind of see the Cinderella story ending last year, it's going to be a great moment not only for him but for us that have been kind of a part of the journey along the way."
Maroon knows, however, once the ceremony is over, it'll be back to business as usual, trying to find a way to beat his former team and leave St. Louis with two more points in the bank for the Lightning. The same fans that were cheering him before the game might be cursing his name during it.
Such is life for one of the NHL's grittiest players, a guy teams love to have on their side but hate when he's on the other one.
"I'm just going to go out there and do my job like I always do every night, play hard, play physical, do whatever I can to help this team win every single night," Maroon said. "It's going to be fun. There's going to be a lot of laughs out there tonight, and I think people are going to enjoy it."
Cooper said he wouldn't be surprised to see a tear or two fall down Maroon's face when he hears the ovation from the St. Louis crowd.
"I think emotions are great, and when they come out, it shows you care," Cooper said. "I know the fans of St. Louis adore him. They may not be cheering for him as much when the puck drops, but everybody here knows what he meant to that team and I'm sure he's going to get a big ovation."
STAMKOS' STATUS IN DOUBT?: Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos didn't participate in the team's morning skate Tuesday at Enterprise Center, and the Lightning recalled forward Cory Conacher from Syracuse earlier in the morning, indicating Stamkos might be out for tonight's battle against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues.
But after morning skate, Cooper said Stamkos was receiving some maintenance and thinks he'll be able to play.
"He'll be good," Cooper said.
Cooper indicated Conacher was brought up for precautionary reasons since the team didn't have any extra forwards on the roster before his arrival.