The most telling part of any Stanley Cup Final clinching game is just how much players sacrificed to get there. Tuesday’s was no different, from the reports of Matthew Tkachuk’s broken sternum to the raw interview with Darren Pang and Alex Pietrangelo. Often forgotten in a society where “I’m right, your’e wrong” is the loudest cadence is that at the end of the day, we really are all fragile humans trying to figure things out.
Stanley Cup Final Still Remains the Ultimate Sacrifice in Hockey
Florida head coach Paul Maurice went through the various injuries that befell his team, including star defenseman Aaron Ekblad playing with a broken foot from the Boston series on. Maurice even admitted that many of his players might not be ready for the start of the regular season based on the injuries.
But it was the interview he had with TNT’s Jackie Redmond that really stood out. Credit Redmond for knowing what questions to not only ask, but her ability to get vulnerable, honest answers in what has to be one of hardest moments for any coach following a loss in the Stanley Cup Final.
What an interview from Florida coach Paul Maurice with @Jackie_Redmond
Heck of a run for the Panthers 👏 pic.twitter.com/d3xumQgoxM
— NHLonTNT (@NHL_On_TNT) June 14, 2023
But this answer from Maurice really stood out:
“You get cynical when you get old, right? Pro sports sometimes makes that happen. The game is wonderful, it’s beautiful. But the best part of sports, for all the things you want your kids to learn when you put them in sports, for all the great character stories, all in that room this year, from training camp on. We’re casual with our words sometimes, but that group of guys loves each other. Every day, The way they treat each other completely destroyed any cynicism I might have about pro sports.
I don’t even necessarily feel that I was part of it, but it was a wonderful thing to be a spectator of and to see it everyday. At the very least, profession affirming for me.”
When Hockey and Life Lessons Intersect
In an era where coaches try to say nothing at all, Maurice’s candor amidst humility and vulnerability is good for the soul and the sport. Compare that with Alex Pietrangelo and the struggle he faced with a sick daughter during the season. There was a moment during the broadcast of the Cup celebration where Wayne Gretzky talked about how important family is because they go through the same battles, albeit it in a different way, that the players do.
Which circles back to the whole point. The human side is often forgotten as fans cheer or jeer players and analysts judge performances. Lost often in what is a billion dollar business that values winning above all else is that human beings are at the heart of all of it.
Watching the celebration on one end and then witnessing the agony of defeat on the other certainly showed the opposite emotions. But united in the contrast was the human spirit, rejoicing on one end over winning and on the other, finding joy in a moment of sorrow. Maurice’s livelihood is tied into his and the team’s success. Moments after he lost, he’s talking about how the cynicism that naturally grows with age and disappointment was washed away because of the love of the locker room.
It’s powerful. It reminds that for all the flaws, and inevitable failures, the human spirit can triumph and persevere in spite of this if everyone indeed is united and genuinely cares for one another.
It doesn’t dampen the disappointment. But it’s a great reminder that at the end of the day, win or lose, we’re all in this thing together.