There's a cliché about hockey players that they're the toughest athletes in sports. It's not just hockey players that are tough, of course. To reach the professional ranks, there's a certain level of toughness every athlete possesses.
There are special individuals in each sport however that exude a certain level of toughness. They aren't always the biggest or strongest, but the ones that have achieved success in the face of great difficulty. New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis has been defining toughness for the duration of his hockey career, but toughness will have a new meaning -- even to him -- Friday night.
Despite the unexpected death of his mother Thursday, St. Louis will be on the ice for the New York Rangers Friday in a must-win Game 5 as they look to stave off elimination against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Per Vigneault: St. Louis found out when the team landed in PIT. He flew to Montreal, spoke with his father and decided to return.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 9, 2014
St. Louis' mother France was 63 years old at the time of her death Thursday. She was on hand earlier this year when St. Louis was honored for playing in his 1,000th game in Tampa Bay.
It's hard to imagine what St. Louis will be feeling as he attempts to play a game. Hockey seems so secondary at a time like this, adversity doesn't even begin to describe it.
St. Louis has overcome the long odds his entire life. From being an undersized, undrafted player out of Quebec, he went a less-traveled route and played U.S. college hockey where he excelled at the University of Vermont. He eventually got signed as a free agent by the Calgary Flames. They waived him and he landed in Tampa Bay, where he ended up building a Hall of Fame-caliber career with the Lightning.
Now with the Rangers, he faces a new challenge of playing with a heavy heart and trying to help his team keep their Stanley Cup Playoff hopes alive. Had he decided not to play or had he felt unable to contribute, no one would blame him, but St. Louis has rarely met a challenge he couldn't overcome.
The Rangers meet the Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. ET.