Skip to Content

Paul Maurice Is A Gem

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 24: Florida Panthers head coach Paul Maurice raises the Stanley Cup during the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, Game 7 between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers on June 24th, 2024 at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, FL. (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coaching is many things: teaching, cajoling, yelling, hugging, and convincing those in your charge to accept it all while convincing those who supervise you that you're better at it than anyone else they could hire. And when you've failed that, to do it again somewhere else for a bunch of new players and supervisors.

So it was that when Paul Maurice finally got the payoff he'd devoted his entire adult life to chasing and was handed the Stanley Cup, he could not help but say the first two words that came to his mind: "Fuck yeah!" And then he said it twice more because the Cup's emotional tonnage strips away inhibitions when it is finally lifted overhead.

He apologized of course, because he is Canadian, but then he gathered himself for round after round of heartfelt interviews reminding anyone with a microphone that he owed more people than those on the ice after the Florida Panthers defeated Team McDavid.

He even recognized the team he used to coach, the one he left three years ago because he was frying himself with the agonies of 37 years as assistant and top boss. It is a unique thing to hope that one's previous teams wins the next championship you are celebrating yourself at the moment, but Paul Maurice has exposed himself to the elements for nearly four decades now, and he would make sure everyone he owed would be repaid—his parents, the Panthers who lost in the Cup Final a year ago and were not on this roster, even the Winnipeg Jets.

Then again, in a field of tactical and strategic liars who train themselves to view the outside world as either a potential or actual enemy in all situations, Maurice has simplified his view of his job. He doesn't fight the media because the media doesn't cost him wins. He doesn't fight the front office because he has learned to recognize a fight he can't win when he sees one. And he doesn't fight the players even when he has to be part of difficult decisions like demotions or trades because they're the ones who carried him here.

Maybe that’s because of the eye injury he suffered at age 20 with the Windsor Spitfires that ended his playing career, and the first executive choice he ever had to make—retiring as a player to become a coach to make room for goalie Pat Jablonski, who'd been sent down by the St. Louis Blues and the Spitfires needed the roster spot. The alternative was being traded, and Maurice accurately observed his future unfolding as a coach, a gift most 21-year-olds need to be 35 to comprehend.

Or maybe because he is just an essentially sensible man not only keeping his wits when all those around him are forfeiting theirs but behaving as though he needn't hide himself from the trappings and shields most coaches take on from their first press conference and never fully release. Maurice even remained relatively sane in his two years in Toronto's media bughouse, and after one run with the Carolina Hurricanes was asked back for a second. When he was fired by the Canes a second time, he went to Russia to coach Metallurg Magnitogorsk and then returned with Winnipeg because he missed his family, and because coaches coach.

And every one of those years ended in disappointment at one level or other because the other thing most coaches do is lose their last game. Maurice has lost more games than any other coach in league history and will put that particular record out of sight because at 58 he has years left on his current and future contracts.

So yes, he very much earned those exuberant F-bombs because for him, it wasn't the words but kissing the Stanley Cup that will bear his name and by extension that of his parents, among the many people he credited in his series of magnanimous and grateful acceptance speeches. All those losses and the proximity of the most crushing loss of all that he would carry forever if not for the intervention of Sam Reinhart taught him the most enduring value of winning: that coaching is really simple if you do it for three decades to the detriment of your nerves and eventually learn how to do battle with the things that must be battled and avoid the battles that net you nothing. And with all those jobs and all those cities and all that perseverance, you might eventually get lucky that one time and get to swear on television and have the audience wholeheartedly approve.

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter