LAVAL, Que. – The thrill of a big win was replaced by reflection as the New York Rangers shared some pain with teammate Martin St. Louis by attending his mother’s funeral on Sunday.
The entire team and coaching staff went to the funeral in a suburb north of Montreal where St. Louis grew up. They were joined by hockey personalities like Montreal Canadiens great Guy Lafleur and Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos.
“It was a very personal matter for Marty,” said Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh. “We just wanted to be there to support him and his family.
“He’s been tremendous through this whole process. It’s great to have someone like that on our squad.”
His mother, France St. Louis, died suddenly three days before Mother’s Day in the middle of the Rangers’ series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. She was 63.
St. Louis didn’t miss a game and provided a lift to his teammates as they battled back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series.
Then the Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 7-2 on Saturday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, with St. Louis scoring the opening goal early in the first period.
The best-of-seven series resumes Monday night at the Bell Centre.
New York coach Alain Vigneault’s voice choked with emotion as he described the service.
“The New York Rangers family has been touched by a little Quebec family in a deep, profound way,” he said. “It was a very emotional, very moving time for our team to have the opportunity to be there and share that with Marty and his family.
“Marty took the podium and shared some incredible moments. It was a deep message. It was a challenging day for us.”
Centre Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup with St. Louis when they played together with the Lightning, said the death has helped the 38-year-old scoring star bond with the Rangers, who he joined at the March 5 NHL trade deadline.
“I think it’s going to help just to get his mind off two things: Trying to play and then trying to make sure he’s doing all the right things for his family and his dad, and do what his mom would want,” said Richards. “We all know this will probably hit him when hockey is over and he has time to reflect.
“But he’s done an unbelievable job keeping everything together and helping his sister and his dad get through this. You wouldn’t expect anything else.”
A handful of hockey fans watched as the Rangers dismounted from the team bus and entered the Laval funeral home.
Habs fan Jeff Quinn, who drove from Saint John, N.B. with his girlfriend to see Saturday’s game, said he’s always admired St. Louis and came to pay his respects.
Quinn said the death of St. Louis’ mother seems to have brought the Rangers closer.
“With Marty and his teammates, it was just one of those rallying points,” he said. “In sports, that’s huge—when everybody gets together.”