At just 63-years-old, the mother of New York Ranger Martin St. Louis unexpectedly passed away on Thursday night— the night before the Rangers faced elimination in Game 5 of the Rangers / Pittsburgh series on May 9.
Yet when game time came around and the 7 p.m. whistle blew, St. Louis was right there on the Pittsburgh ice, ready to fight for his team in their playoff journey. Why? Because it’s what his mom would’ve wanted.
Marty St. Louis will play in tonight’s Game 5. Vigneault: “He said that he and his dad agreed that his mom would want him to be [here].”
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) May 9, 2014
In the midst of the anxiety, pressure and enthusiasm that overwhelm the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the losing teams are consistently hounded with critics in their loyal fans who are frustrated by the unsatisfactory game play of their teams.
However, when tragedy strikes, everything changes and the character of a team is called into question. Yet time and time again, the New York Rangers prove why they have such Blueshirt faithful fans who pride themselves in “bleeding blue”— because it must be hard not be proud of a team that steps up in the face of adversity with unbelievable grace and support within their team, showcasing the genuine chemistry and contagious love of the proud wearers of red, white and blue.
The undeniable strength and commitment shown from St. Louis in his surprising appearance in Game 5, is a true testament to the closeness of the team and the support he feels from his new teammates in New York. It’s only been about two months that St. Louis has skated on home ice at Madison Square Garden, yet it seems that once a player becomes a New York Ranger, he becomes part of the family.
“I think it says a lot about him, but also says a lot about his teammates that he’d want to be here,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said in a pregame interview for NHL.com.
The support of St. Louis’s teammates also took place outside of the locker room, though, as Game 5 proved to be a battle of heart, with Brian Boyle and Ryan McDonagh throwing their bodies in front of the puck blocking shots and Chris Kreider and Derek Brassard out-hustling the Pens to put up points and end the power play goal drought.
The performance of the Rangers in Game 5 was an all-around showing of team unity. They truly had each other’s backs, blocking shots, giving in that extra 10 percent and protecting their players— winning not only the game and a second chance in the series, but winning in the paying of a wonderful tribute to their new teammate during his time of grief.
“You don’t expect these things. It was a tough couple days for my family,” St. Louis said in the post game interview. “I know deep down my mother would’ve wanted me to play this game. She’d be proud of me coming here and help as much as I can. The boys have been so supportive. The support I’ve gotten from the New York Rangers, my teammates, my friends and family, friends around the league, old friends has been unbelievable. I’m glad that we’re able to get this win and stay alive.”
Vigneault shared pieces of his exchanges with St. Louis leading up to the decision to play, in the pre-game interview, “At the end of the day, my message to him was ‘there are more important things than hockey,” Vigneault said. “You have to do what’s right, you have to take care of your dad,’ but they got up this morning and they talked and they sorted it out, and he’s here.”
And as Vigneault pointed out that there are more important things than hockey, Pittsburgh’s Sydney Crosby demonstrated that there are more important things rivalries. Crosby walked up to St. Louis before the game and expressed his condolences. While the playoffs are conducive in forming exciting game rivalries, it is clear that in the face of tragedy, all hockey players, regardless of team, must come together in support of each other and return to the integrity of the sport as a whole.
But unfortunately the Rangers are no strangers to tragedy— but are indeed exceptional in fighting through it.
Dominic Moore: This playoff series has been an incredible comeback for Dominic Moore who has come full circle after tragically losing his 32-year-old wife to cancer. Moore left his team at the time, the San Jose Sharks, during their first-round playoff series against the Blues so that he could be with his wife on her death bed. Yet a year later, here we find Moore back in the playoffs on the Ranger’s side this time, proving himself as a driven and essential role player. It is this perseverance that has made him an obvious nominee for the Masterson Trophy award.
Derek Boogaard: The tragic passing of the 28-year-old “Boogeyman” was a huge upset to the Rangers, especially his best friend and former Ranger, Marian Gaborik. Gaborik, a Ranger at the time of Boogaard’s passing in 2011, came back out and a played a full 82 games in the Ranger’s 2011-2012 season. He scored 41 goals and recorded 35 assists. Wearing a New York jersey, Gaborik exemplified the team’s defiance in his overcoming of his teammate’s death.
KHL crash: Perhaps the most tragic accident in hockey history was the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv tragedy that killed the 45 passengers on the flight, almost all being players in the KHL. This was an unimaginable event that was not only horrifying in the KHL, but in the NHL as several players play back and forth for both leagues. But for a New York Ranger at the time, Artem Anisimov had perhaps one of the heaviest hearts, having grown up with several of the players on the crash, including his childhood best friend, Alexander Vasyunov. Yet Anisimov demonstrated the Ranger resiliency once again, coming back to pick up 36 points for the Rangers in their 2011-2012 season while providing solid center play for the offense and being a consistent asset during his 79 games played with the team that season, despite losing his former teammates and friends. Gaborik was stricken with grief again that summer, losing another best friend in Pavel Demitra, but still dominated as a key player in New York.
Demo,u will always b in my heart.U were one of my best friends on and off the ice.U will be greatly missed by all of us.My condolences… — Marian Gaborik (@MGaborik10) September 7, 2011
In the face of overwhelming tragedy the Rangers have continued to move forward, and if history repeats itself— will always continue to do so. As tragedy has stricken and will no doubt strike again as that’s the way life goes, the Blueshirt fans can continue to count on their team to be full of standup players who show tremendous character in the face of adversity. While statistics, scores and game performance are constantly changing, the Rangers have consistently been a constant source of perhaps the most important trait in sports: resiliency.
And that alone is worth more than winning a Stanley Cup.