When Pat Maroon left Oakville High after the 2004-05 school year to pursue his hockey dreams, there were some peers who thought: “Good luck with that.”
After all, the odds of making a professional sports team are slim, and at the time, St. Louis wasn’t exactly known as a hotbed of hockey talent.
Well, 16 years — and three Stanley Cups — later Maroon was back at the south St. Louis County high school Wednesday with the Cup. On his right hand was a Tampa Bay Lightning 2020 Cup ring. On his left hand, one from the St. Louis Blues’ 2019 championship squad.
(He and the rest of his Lightning teammates are still waiting for their 2021 title ring to arrive.)
With the school marching band to his left and the rest of the student body sitting in the bleachers of the football stadium, Maroon was introduced to the crowd.
“There’s one thing I have to do before I speak to you guys,” said Maroon, wearing his Tampa Bay No. 14 jersey.
He pulled off his Lightning sweater, revealing an Oakville hockey team jersey underneath — to the delight of the crowd.
Maroon reminded the students that he once sat in those same bleachers.
“Work hard for your teachers, be nice to each other, and live out your dreams,” Maroon said. “Your dreams are never over; it doesn’t matter how old you are.”
Maroon, now 33, is living proof.
“This was an amazing day,” said Oakville principal Tamara Sunkett. “This is history. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Stanley Cup up close and in person and have it brought here by a member of our own community and one of our own alums. So it doesn’t get any better than that.”
“I actually got to touch (the Cup), which was a really cool thing,” said junior Megan Van Fleet, who was covering the event for the school yearbook. “Not very many people get that experience.”
Deedee Coon was among a group of high school workers wearing blue T-shirts with “Straight outta Oakville” on the front and “Maroon” on the back. They had them made two years ago when the Blues won the Cup.
Now a bookkeeper, Coon worked in the lunchroom when Maroon was in high school.
“He loved the fries,” she said.
The Cup, by the way, was in Russia just a few days ago as part of the Lightning players’ Cup days. On hand as usual Wednesday was “Keeper of the Cup” Phil Pritchard — who Blues fans may remember from a couple of summers ago. There were no Cup days last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, with festivities limited to Tampa.
Two years ago when the Blues won, Maroon had a largely private, family-oriented Cup day. But this time around, it was all about his hometown.
“It’s awesome to win again, and obviously to share it with Oakville High School and Oakville,” said Maroon, who has been skating informally with the Blues for weeks at Centene Community Ice Center but heads back to Tampa on Thursday with camp just around the corner..
After spending a little over an hour at the high school Wednesday, the Maroon entourage hopped aboard their charter bus and headed down Telegraph Road for a pub crawl, with some police friends providing an escort.
Over the years, Maroon has spent hundreds of hours — and more than a few dollars — at the Blarney Stone, Frankie G’s, Garvey’s and the Oakville Sports Pub. He stopped by each place, for 30 minutes or so, with the Cup on Wednesday. (A pit stop at Nubby’s BBQ was an impromptu addition to the itinerary — it’s had an Oakville location for only a few months, but Maroon knows the owner.)
Senior citizens Joann Chulick and Joan Gebel already planned to have lunch at the Blarney Stone; when they found out Maroon and the Cup were coming, they decided to get there early. They arrived at 11 a.m., a full 2 ½ hours early, and knocked down some vodka while waiting.
“We’ve got the vodka, but this makes it look nice,” a smiling Chulick said, pointing to a pair of nearly empty bowls of salad.
There wasn’t much advance notice or publicity about Maroon’s pub crawl. But word got out and each establishment was packed with overflow crowds.
“I hope the fire department doesn’t hear about this,” joked one customer at the Blarney Stone.
Or the CDC, in what were almost exclusively mask-less crowds.
There were maybe one or two Tampa Bay jerseys — total — spotted on this day. No offense to the Lightning, but this definitely was a Blues affair, with customers partying like it was 2019.
Usually coming in a side or back door, Maroon wedged his way into each place to shouts of “Patty!” or “Big Rig!” or “Let’s Go Blues!” Several babies, one just eight weeks old, were placed in the Cup for photos.
No place was more jacked up for Maroon and the Cup, or more overflowing with people, than the last stop of the day – the Oakville Sports Pub. The roof almost came off the place when Maroon walked in with the Cup over his head. The crowd immediately started chanting “Patty! Patty! Patty!”
All the while, music was blaring of a song not heard for a while: “Gloria.”
In the interest of full disclosure, Maroon has done time on the “Wall of Shame” at the Tap Haus, an adjacent building that is part of the Oakville Sports Pub.
If you leave without paying, your bill is tacked on the wall until you settle up. Turns out Maroon forgot to pay several years back after an evening spent consuming multiple adult beverages. He made amends a few months later during his next visit. Honest mistake, right?
It was perhaps a fitting ending. A day that ended near the Wall of Shame began with the Hall of Fame at Oakville High. Maroon received a plaque commemorating his induction by Chris Gaines, superintendent of the Mehlville School District.
The school’s official Hall of Fame ceremony for 2021 isn’t until Oct. 8. But Maroon will be busy then, preparing for yet another Cup run with the Lightning.