Maroon making most of new start in Anaheim

Posted: January 31, 2014

ANAHEIM - Sitting in his stall deep inside the bowels of the Honda Center, Pat Maroon wiped the dripping sweat from his forehead, but the concerned look on his brow remained.

To this day, more than 3 years after the fact, the Flyers' draft pick isn't quite sure how he ended up in Southern California - playing for the NHL's top team, alternating nightly on lines between Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

His mind is still blown. The pain, the confusion and the details are all too clear.

"If I think about it more," Maroon said, "I will just get upset."

The date was Oct. 27, 2010. It was a Wednesday. Maroon, a sixth-round pick and prospect on the rise, was leading the Phantoms in scoring. He posted eight points in his first nine games on the AHL's sorriest team.

Practice wrapped up. Maroon, then 22, was called into Phantoms coach Greg Gilbert's office. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was sitting there.

Three weeks into the season, Holmgren was there to tell Maroon to pack his bags. He was no longer welcome in the Flyers organization. The decision was final.

Poof. Gone. Bye. Maroon never saw it coming.

"It shocks me, still, that they sent me home like that, right after practice," Maroon said yesterday. "That really set me back, made me wonder if I still wanted to play hockey. It was a wake-up call for me."

That week, Holmgren told the Daily News he "wasn't going to get into the whys and how comes" on Maroon's release and that "from time to time, you have to do things that are not nice in the interest of the hockey team and the organization." In other media outlets, Maroon was labeled as a player with "behavioral" issues and a "bad attitude."

Immediately then, and now 3 years later, the move seemed like a knee-jerk reaction from Holmgren. It is one move that he would probably like back. The reports then stated that Maroon was let go at the request of Gilbert, who ended up being fired by the Flyers with a 2-10-0 record just 10 days after Maroon was sent packing.

Current Flyers assistant coach John Paddock was brought in to coach the Phantoms then - one of three head coaches for the Flyers' mess of a minor league affiliate that season. Maroon and Paddock got along well in 2008-09 in the Phantoms' last season in Philadelphia.

"It is one of those things, maybe if we knew at the time that we were going to make a coaching change with Greg, that we would have hung on to Pat," Paddock said. "Who knows what would have happened? It could have been the same outcome even if I was there. We probably didn't think then he would become the player he is now."

Paddock said it is not unusual for a player to disagree with the coaching staff, but conceded it is especially rare to see a player with a contract sent home.

Whispers spread about Maroon. Two other players on that team - Jon Kalinski and Stefan Legein - were given warnings to shape up or ship out, using Maroon as an example. Kalinski, 26, is no longer playing. Legein, 25, is in Sweden.

The issue, apparently, was not "behavioral," in a problematic sense.

According to a league source, the Flyers wanted Maroon to take hockey more seriously. Maroon clashed with Gilbert on many subjects, including conditioning. Weight had always been an issue, earning him the nickname "Fat Maroon" as a teenager.

The Flyers wanted Maroon to play at 220 pounds, but they would have settled for 230. (Ironically, the 6-3 Maroon is listed in Anaheim's media guide at 229.) Maroon was lugging more than 240 pounds in Adirondack.

Holmgren did not respond to a request from the Daily News for clarification and comment about Maroon's departure.

Maroon left Glens Falls, N.Y., and went to skate on his own in New Hampshire with former teammate Sean Curry. More than 3 weeks passed. At one point, nearing the end of his rope, Maroon drove to North Jersey to stay with relatives. He skated with the Montclair State University club hockey team.

"It was tough," Maroon said. "Being sent home from a team, you wonder if that's the end of it. You're sitting on your couch and you wonder if maybe this isn't meant to be your career. I didn't have motivation to do anything."

Maroon got a call from his father, back in his hometown of St. Louis, urging him to keep going. Four days later, his phone rang again. It was Ducks GM Bob Murray, welcoming him to the Anaheim organization.

The Flyers had traded Maroon to Anaheim with David Laliberte in exchange for Danny Syvret and Rob Bordson.

"It was a new start, a new beginning for me," Maroon said. "A new coaching staff. A new level of maturity for me, too. I began to get used to my body more, getting older."

Maroon said his bad reputation from the Flyers put him under a microscope - he could tell the Ducks were skeptical about him. It made him want to work that much harder to prove the Flyers wrong.

Maroon credits former Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney with taking the time to help him become a better professional and instill "a state of mind that maybe I didn't have when I was younger."

Last night was Maroon's 51st career NHL game, and his scored his career-high fifth goal in the first period against the Flyers. His stats aren't eye-popping, but he plays a gritty, prototypical "Flyer" game that digs up scoring chances for Perry and Getzlaf. Last week, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau called him Anaheim's best forward for a stretch of three or four games.

Maroon skates alongside Selanne, the NHL's oldest active player who has 1,430 games under his belt, but his sudden departure from the Flyers is a reminder against developing any sense of security or entitlement.

"To his credit, Pat has turned into a player in this league. That's an accomplishment," Paddock said. "He was in a tough spot."

Perry, the former Hart Trophy winner, walked by Maroon's locker yesterday morning and said there would "be a lotttttt of money on the board" last night - a reference to Maroon ponying up cash for added motivation for his teammates to beat the Flyers.

Maroon, now 25, harbors no ill will. The Flyers drafted him and gave him an opportunity to make a career out of hockey after growing up as an inline player in Missouri. In a strange way, it all worked out.

"I can't thank them enough," Maroon said. "You never want to see that happen to a player - to get a bad rap. I don't want the Flyers to look back and think of me as a problem. I want them to look back and say he's not that guy anymore. Maybe one day, me and Paul will sit down and have a coffee and talk about it and we'll all find out what really happened."

Forward Chris VandeVelde cleared waivers yesterday and was assigned to AHL Adirondack after a run of 17 games in the Flyers' lineup . . . VandeVelde's departure made room for Zac Rinaldo to return for the first time since Jan. 8, when he suffered a high left ankle sprain against the Canadiens . . . In the Flyers' morning skate, Michael Raffl took turns at center for the first time this season. Coach Craig Berube said he was "just trying it out" and added that Raffl played center previously in Sweden.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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