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My Beloved American Girl Doll Will Not Stop Wearing His Big Belt

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - JUNE 24: Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers smokes a cigar while wearing the NHL/WWE Stanley Cup Championship belt in the locker room after Game Seven of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final between the Edmonton Oilers and the Florida Panthers at Amerant Bank Arena on June 24, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida.
Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Unfortunately for all the Matthew Tkachuk haters, my Beloved American Girl Doll survived the Stanley Cup Playoffs without losing any of his teeth. Better yet, he actually came out the other end with a title—something that will evade Canada for at least another year.

For a moment there, I almost didn't believe the Panthers had it in them. They had fought valiantly to win the first three in the series, only to shapelessly crumble in the three games after. The one thing that had kept me on Florida's side, the idea of watching Matthew Tkachuk go absolutely buck wild after winning the Cup, was slipping away before my eyes.

But as the clock ran down in the third period, Florida trapping the puck against the boards, my heart began to burn in my chest out of excitement and stress. The hockey season might be ending, but the summer of Matthew Tkachuk was just starting.

While the post-victory scene on the ice was emotional, the real Panthers party began in the locker room. That seems to be the location where Tkachuk was introduced to another trophy—one from which he has become inseparable.

Do you see it? That Stanley Cup championship belt? Yeah, it appears that Tkachuk has developed some sort of emotional attachment to it, because he can't stop taking it everywhere with him.

The belt was actually created by the WWE for the NHL, something they've done across sports for the last few seasons. Usually, it puts the wrestling company's logo front and center, but in December, they struck up some sort of licensing deal with the league, and the belt for this year's championship is supposed to "have a more hockey-centric look."

I would roll my eyes at all of this if not for the joy it has brought to my beautiful rat. Practically every day, I have been treated to images of him and the belt frolicking somewhere in South Florida. After their locker room celebration on Monday night, Tkachuk and company were up bright and early the next day to start the party in Fort Lauderdale. Here he is pouring beer from the Stanley Cup with his dad. Of course, he's wearing the belt.

After taking the Cup for a dip in the ocean (one of the rare moments where Tkachuk took off the belt), the Panthers were back at it again on Wednesday, this time in Miami. The playoff beards might be gone, but the belt was not. This Midwest boy will not abandon his accessory. It has become a part of him now, it seems. He is unstoppable.

Matthew Tkachuk hoists the cup over his head as Carter Verhaeghe holds out his arms in front of him.
Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for E11EVEN MiamiPhoto by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

On Friday, I saw this tweet of a Tkachuk interview. I have no idea where the screenshot came from, but I see a familiar belt resting next to his thigh.

Despite the rain and lightning, crowds showed up for the Panthers in Fort Lauderdale for Sunday's Stanley Cup parade. Look at him carrying the belt!

When he and his team finally took the stage, Tkachuk gave a speech where he expressed his eternal beef with Edmonton. “I heard it’s 70 degrees and sunny in Edmonton, but they ain’t got no Cup!” He was wearing the belt.

By now, I'm afraid to know how many (or how few) hours this man has slept since June 24. I still have questions, though. Will Tkachuk get to keep it? Do any of his teammates want a turn with it? I hope we get some answers soon. For now, I'll just enjoy the chaos. After all, this rat has a reason to glow ethereally.

Those who want to chase the happiness Tkachuk has found with this belt can buy a replica for the low, low price of $549.99 at the online NHL shop (operated by Fanatics). It is, however, not available at the brick-and-mortar NHL store in New York City. I know this because I called them yesterday to ask, and they had no idea what I was talking about.

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