NEW YORK -- To this day, New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal is amazed how patient and supportive his mother was in a home of four hockey-crazed sons.
"She was a busy mother with the four of us always in need of something," Staal said. "We spent 10 to 15 years inside of a hockey rink, I think. She's a pretty amazing woman and she still wants to take care of us and make sure we're alright."
Those memories were echoed by various players for the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins on Mother's Day prior to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS, NBCSN). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.
Staal vividly recalls the days growing up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, when his mother, Linda, would watch he and his brothers play shinny games for hours from the kitchen window and shake her head. The memorable matchups usually paired the oldest Staal, Eric, with the youngest, Jared, against middle siblings Jordan and Marc. Eric, Jordan and Jared play for the Carolina Hurricanes.
"On Mother's Day, we'd go to church in the morning, have some soup afterwards and then we would give mom a gift," Staal said. "As kids, you have those school projects from which you make your mother something special, but I don't know if she kept any of that stuff; she might have."
Staal knows the game Sunday will be an emotional one for teammate Martin St. Louis, who lost his mother to a heart attack Thursday and will have his father Normand and sister Isabelle in attendance Sunday at MSG.
"It will be an emotional day for Marty," Staal said. "The loss of mom is tough but we'll spend Mother's Day celebrating her life instead of mourning her loss."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has similar feelings with regard to St. Louis and the emotions he may experience.
"In terms of Marty and the loss of his mother and dealing with that, it's going to be emotional because of that fact it's here today," Bylsma said. "I expect it to be in the building. Heck, it's emotional for me. I don't know what Marty is playing with and I don't know how he's feeling, but I certainly know he's grieving this loss and he's going to have that playing [Sunday] on Mother's Day. I want to give my mom her gift today. I know she wrote me a text about it, get our fourth win here."
Penguins center Brandon Sutter, the son of Brent and Connie Sutter and nephew and cousin of a hockey-rich Sutter tradition on the ice, knows the challenges his mom faced.
"The hockey mom is a bit of a challenge," he said with a grin. "There's a lot of travel and hours spent and many cold rinks, especially where I'm from [Red Deer, Alberta]. So there were a lot of cold places to be for me so she's been through a lot. When we had the mother's trip out with the team on the West Coast this year, it was a great experience.
"I think a lot of the attributes I have on the ice are from dad, but I will say my chattiness is something I might have gotten from mom."
Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh grew up in Minnesota and credits his mother.
"It's pretty incredible when you look back," McDonagh said. "Your mother got up early and drove you to the rink, made your food, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and she would do whatever she could to help make you feel good. It was incredible the amount of effort that mom put in to help us players to where we are today."
Penguins right wing James Neal, the first of five siblings, acknowledged that his work ethic is one trait he received from his mother, Deborah.
"There's nobody better than mom for me and for me being the oldest of five, I owe her so much," Neal said. "She was at every game and being close to home now, playing in Pittsburgh, and having her be able to come down all the time and watch games is special. Whenever you talk about your mother you get a smile on your face.
"She still works to this day and has been in the same office for 26 years now. She's a dedicated woman and with how expensive hockey gear is and coming from a big family, feeding the family and putting the hockey gear on my brothers, is a big task."
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is equally grateful for everything his mom, Trina, has done for his career.
"To give your kids the opportunity to do what you love to do, I feel pretty fortunate but she's a big reason for that," Crosby said. "I like to think I'm pretty appreciative usually, but especially on this day for sure."