‘I need to win one’: Paul Maurice wants his Stanley Cup and his best chance is now

After stepping down on his own accord from his position with the Winnipeg Jets in December 2021, Paul Maurice didn’t know if he’d coach again.


24 seasons behind an NHL bench and no Stanley Cups to his name, Maurice’s chance to win the greatest prize in hockey looked to be behind him.

That was until Bill Zito called.


“I had four phenomenal days of fishing — and this is the absolute truth. My phone rings and it’s a number I don’t know so I never answer that,” Maurice said. “ Then I get a text from somebody that says ‘answer your phone’.” 


Maurice obviously picked up his phone. 


“Bill and I get on the phone and it starts there. It starts with just a conversation and it’s not even really about the job, it’s just the interest level I had and I was good — then we start talking hockey and that was it.”


Content may not be the best word to describe it, but Maurice said a few times “he was good”, as he looked back at the half a year he was away from the game.


But something about Florida was right. 


“It’s the connection between two people and you feel it or you don’t — and I was good. I had given all that I thought I had to give, certainly been fortunate in the game and received far more than I gave,” Maurice told the media as he reminisced on his first conversation with Zito. “But there’s just these strange little things that meant Florida was right and it was where I was supposed to be next.”


Zito was able to convince Maurice to step away from his cottage on the lake and make his way over to South Florida. Now nearly two years later they are trying to finish off this historic journey together as the Panthers are set to take the ice in their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final.


Maurice, 57, has an extensive and impressive coaching record — one that will make him go down as one of the most recognizable coaching figures in the game’s history.


After starting his NHL career as a youngster back in 1995-96 with the Hartford Whalers, Maurice sits atop most of the all-time coaching records, including Fourth most wins with 869 and second most games coached at 1,848. 


The one thing that’s missing from his potential Hall of Fame career is the biggest achievement in the game — a Stanley Cup. 


The question of legacy was brought up and if Maurice believes you need to win if you want to go down as an all-time great. Unsurprisingly, the ever straightforward Panthers coach was clear in what he believed the answer was for himself.


“I need to win one.”


“That’s the truth, that’s how I feel. I’m 30 years into this thing, I wouldn’t mind winning one — how about that,” Maurice laughed after answering. “When it’s over, because I thought it was… I understand what it feels like to feel like it’s over and you didn’t win. I know coaches that feel the opposite. Maybe it’s a function of I think I carry the losses and that goes back to starting very very young. I’m going to know when this thing’s all over — either how good I got or how good I was. I won’t need somebody else to tell me that or to value my career. I’m not saying I’m going to value it really high, I’m not telling you where I’ll value it. I have a pretty good idea of the job I’ve done when it’s over. Ya, I’d really like to win one man.”


The 26 season NHL veteran said that every coach is different when it comes to if they need a cup or not for legacy. Losing twice in the finals, once back in 2002 with Carolina and then last year with Florida, the good ole Canadian boy from the Sault is looking to hoist Lord Stanley’s prize over his head. 


”Every coach is different. It seems to me as you age you get a different perspective on life and what’s important, and valuable,” he added. “I need to win one. It’s not going to change the section of my life that’s not related to hockey at all.”


Just two years into his tenure, Maurice is already the most successful coach in Florida Panthers history. His 25 postseason wins is 12 more than the man in second place — and he’ll hope that number is at 29 once the summer rolls around. 


When the puck drops just after 8 p.m. ET on Saturday for Game 1 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final, both Maurice and the franchise — who entered the league around the same time (Panthers two years prior to Maurice)  — will start the final step of the journey, in hopes of winning their first Stanley Cup.  

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