ST. LOUIS -- Sitting in the confines of Charlie Gitto's Pasta House on a Monday night, which is owned by his fiancee's family, Pat Maroon's emotions came full circle and it was then that he made the final call on a Monday night to come home.
One would think that would be the top moment in deciding to play for the team he grew up watching and following as a kid, but a phone call with nine-year-old son Anthony sealed the deal more than any decision Maroon made for the immediate future of his NHL career after agreeing to a one-year, $1.75 million contract to play in St. Louis.
"When I told him over the phone, because it was a decision that they were going to announce it at 3 o'clock, I said, 'It's official,'" Maroon said Wednesday at Enterprise Center. "We both kind of started tearing up a little bit because it's a special thing. I've been away from him for nine years. You seen two years ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ath5E3oyGbo) where I kind of broke down, having not seen him for five months, that takes a toll on you sometimes as a dad and it's hard being away from your son like that. I think one of the reasons why too is being close to him and having a full year under my belt with my son. I haven't had that. It's only been three months at a time. It's going to be a really cool year for him and watching him, his dad play for the St. Louis Blues. Seeing him in warmups before every game, it's going to be a really fun year, a really cool year and it's going to be very special. He's going to remember this time."
Yes, 'Big Rig' Maroon, who had 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) last season, comes home. The Oakville native will spend nights at home, a real home he grew up in, not one he has to buy on a whim. He's now full-time around parents, brothers and sisters, a fiancee and her family, and most importantly, Anthony and his activities.
"He plays basketball, he plays soccer late in September so I get to stay and watch him do those things," Maroon said. "I get to watch him play basketball, I get to go watch his hockey games when we're obviously not playing. Those are the things I missed out on. I get to do those things and it's going to be fun. I'm gonna enjoy it and now I get to sit down and watch my kid play hockey. It's not watching through Facetime and not watching through videos. I can go to his games and enjoy my time doing that and watch my son grow."
So here he is, Maroon, who played last season with the Edmonton Oilers before being traded to the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 26, comes full circle in a way after playing for the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League in 2005-06 and will wear his Bandits No. 7 with the Blues; he gets to do it on a revamped Blues roster that has since July 1 added Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak, David Perron and Chad Johnson to its roster.
"Yeah, absolutely, and that's good," Maroon said. "When I saw all those moves happen, I was still trying to make my decision, but that kind of made my decision a lot easier. Down the middle, they're probably one of the top centermen's in the league now. They have a really good centermen all four lines when you think about it. Their wingers are really good, adding Perron now. [Jaden] Schwartz, obviously [Vladimir] Tarasenko, 'Steener.' And you guys have to remember, the 'D' core is strong too. The decision was hard, but it was also easy seeing that on paper. I think I'm excited. [Doug] Armstrong is trying to send a statement that this is a good team, now you have it and you have to go out there and do it now."
Maroon turned down more money and longer term to come home and help his hometown team. With the Blues strapped by the salary cap and having to still sign defensemen Joel Edmundson and Jordan Schmaltz, Maroon bet on himself that he can overcome a back injury that needed surgery in the offseason and he can come in, be healthy and fully available to help this team in the immediate while readying himself to perhaps get a contract extension offered to him by St. Louis as early as Jan. 1.
Among those interested were the Devils and Arizona Coyotes.
"Yeah, there were a couple teams interested," Maroon said. "It came down to if I was going to take a one-year deal, what team was gonna help me prolong my career and what team was the best decision. I feel like the St. Louis Blues had my best interest. There were guys reaching out and making me feel wanted. Armstrong was pushing really hard for me. Obviously left some things on the table, but I think it's a life-changing thing for me and I think this is the team that's going to get my game where it needs to be and put me in the right direction moving forward for hopefully the next five years I can play.
"... I know my son and family is here and I'm from here, but it's also a good roster and it's a good roster for me to come in and make this year a lot better. I think I can bring my game to where I think they've been missing. I think this is a really good opportunity with four really good centers to get my game to where it was two years ago."
Among those to reach out included Alex Pietrangelo, Alexander Steen, Robby Fabbri and Chris Thorburn.
Getting to skate with many of the Blues players the past number of offseasons helped form a relationship and bond.
"Skating out there (at the Ice Zone inside St. Louis Outlet Mall), they let me use their locker room," Maroon said. "I hang my gear out there. It's like a second home to me. I always told myself how easy it was driving to the Mills and practicing and going home and leaving my gear there. It just made sense. Hanging out with those guys in the summer with them, it made my decision easier those guys reaching out to me, 'Petro,' 'Steener,' 'Fabbri,' to have those guys reach out to me and Thorburn. It made my decision a lot easier with guys reaching out and making me feel at home."
Maroon gives the Blues an added element missing since perhaps the days of David Backes, Troy Brouwer and even Ryan Reaves. It's a big, physical player who will battle for his teammates when called upon, provide the necessary muscle and move onto a line that can use his grit and finishing touch. Ask Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl how that worked for them having the 'Big Rig' protect them.
"I think I bring a big, physical presence that I think they've been missing the last few years," Maroon said. "I think I bring that netfront presence that I think they've been lacking. I can be really good on the power play and I can be really good in front of the net, I have really good hands, soft hands, in front of the net. I can bring that physical presence down low, protecting pucks, sticking up for my teammates. I feel like this is a team that probably needed something like that. Ryan Reaves did a really good job of that back in the day and I feel like Thorbs is doing a really good job of that, but I feel like I can bring another element to that and I think the team was missing that. I'm excited and I also play with a little bit of skill too. I feel like those centermen can complement me too well and those forwards. It's going to be a fun year and I think that's what I can do for this team."
Maroon, who said he's been cleared by doctors to begin skating next week and has been training for the past five weeks, has spoken with coach Mike Yeo and Armstrong about his role.
"We had a really good conversation, I had a really good conversation with Armstrong," Maroon said. "They made me feel wanted and we had conversations where I can play, where I can fit up and down the lineup. I think [Armstrong] touched on it a little bit yesterday. I can fit on all four lines. Wherever you put me, I can play. I can be creative. It's not just all with skill players. If you put me down on the fourth line, I can grind it down low and create some good energy for the guys too.
"... Obviously when you go into those meetings, you can ask where you fit, but we haven't really thought about that. For me, I've got to come in here and earn a spot. There's no spot guaranteed on this team. There's going to be a team where guys are fighting for spots and I feel like they haven't had that for a while where guys come in and you have to fight for a spot, so I have to come in here and earn my spot. I like doing that and I love when my back's against a wall, proving people wrong and I'm excited joining the team."
As for that 10 p.m. decision on a Monday night, well, what better place to make up one's mind than at Charlie Gitto's?
"I couldn't even eat," Maroon said. "I was so nervous and stressed out.
"I called my agent [Ben Hankinson] and told him I'm going to sign with the St. Louis Blues. It sounded like when we called 'Army,' he was sleeping because it was so late at night. I was excited and it was one of those feelings where I can't wait to get on the ice. It's going to be an exciting year."
Now Philip Maroon, Pat's father, will have to dip into the season ticket fund again. After taking Pat and his brother to many games when they were kids to see Brett Hull and Adam Oates, Philip Maroon can go watch his boy play now.
"We had two seats," Pat Maroon recalled. "My dad would come and then either me or my brother switch off and would sit down together. The three of us would go and one would sit on top of my dad's lap. It was pretty cool.
"... I'm really excited. It's going to be a really good year. It's going to be a fun year. I'm excited to be a Bluenote. I've dreamed of putting that jersey on. That decision was kind of easy knowing what the roster looked like and the chance for me to come in. I think this is a good team that's going to have a (lot to look forward to). It's a team that is going to be doing some really good things this year and it made my decision a lot easier. I just so happened to be coming home, and I'm very excited about that too."