LAVAL, Quebec (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Rangers coaches and players joined star forward Martin St. Louis at his mother’s funeral outside Montreal on Sunday.
Former Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos and Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur also attended.
“It was a very personal matter for Marty,” Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “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 series resumes Monday night in Montreal.
“It was good for us to be there for him, so today was a lot less about hockey and a lot more about being there for him and his family,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “Marty’s been great through everything. He certainly has done a great job of coming into our room and still being that positive influence and energetic guy. I don’t think that’s on anybody’s mind, how we are going to react. We’ll be ready to play.”
New York coach Alain Vigneault’s voice cracked 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.”
Vigneault said St. Louis “took the podium and shared some incredible moments” about his mother.
“After hearing him speak, I don’t know how he did it,” he said. “He’s a much better man than me to do something like that. But what I think what he is doing, and his family … and everybody’s that close to him, I think what they’re doing is moving on through our team. The fact that we’re still playing is enabling them to cope and handle this challenging situation.”
Center Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup with St. Louis when they played together with the Lightning, said the 38-year-old scoring star has bonded with his new teammates during this difficult time. St. Louis joined the Rangers 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,” Richards said. “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, New Brunswick, with his girlfriend to see Saturday’s game, said he’s always admired St. Louis and came to pay his respects.
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)