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2023 Stanley Cup Final

Best Friends DeBoer, Maurice Could Meet in Stanley Cup Final

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From left, Shawn Matthias, Radek Dvorak, coach Pete DeBoer, Steven Reinprecht, and Michal Repik look up at the scoreboard during a video review in a Florida Panthers win over the Islanders on Jan. 31, 2010, in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Rick Silva)

SUNRISE — A lot still has to happen for this to transpire, but if the stars align, two best friends could be coaching against one another in the Stanley Cup Final starting on Saturday night.

Florida’s Paul Maurice has already punched his ticket to the Cup Final but his longtime friend Pete DeBoer still has some work to do.

DeBoer, who just happened to coach the Panthers from 2008-11, has his Dallas Stars team two wins away from the Cup Final after falling behind 3-0 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference finals.

Dallas plays host to the Knights tonight in Game 6 down 3-2 in the best-of-7 series.

Maurice will not say he is rooting for his friend to make it because he knows fate has its own way of playing things out.

If it is meant to be, it will be.

But it is probably safe to say when Maurice is watching the Stars and Knights, he is rooting for his friend — as all of us would be.

“We played junior together, were roommates together, we coached together, stood in each others’ weddings,” Maurice said Sunday morning at FLA Live Arena.

”He is a very great man.”

Maurice and DeBoer first met as players on the Windsor Spitfires back in 1985, the two a year apart.

Although they went their separate ways once done playing, they stayed in touch as Maurice continued coaching and DeBoer played two professional seasons in the IHL before heading to college — and later, law school — at the University of Windsor.

The two were roommates while DeBoer was attending law school when Maurice, then head coach of the OHL’s Detroit Jr. Red Wings, asked him to come and help him with the team.

DeBoer said he used the money from the team to help pay for his tuition and books, studying and going to classes in the morning and early afternoon before practice.

He ended up getting law degrees from both the universities of Windsor and Detroit mostly while helping Maurice run a junior hockey team.

“I am the general manager and head coach of the Detroit Jr. Red Wings and I might be 26 at the time,” Maurice said. “He is my assistant and I didn’t know what I was doing and he didn’t know what he was doing. We were just doing it all together. And he was going to law school at the same time.

”He would go to law school all day, show up at the rink in the afternoon for practice. He never missed a game, never missed a practice and still graduated. Very bright.”

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A conversation with new Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice

Maurice and DeBoer were in charge of the team for owner Peter Karmanos despite not being much older than the players on their team.

When Karmanos bought the Hartford Whalers, GM Jim Rutherford hired Maurice to be an assistant coach — and later promoted him to head coach at 28.

DeBoer ended up giving up life as an attorney to take over the team when Maurice left.

With rare occasion, the two have not coached together since.

But they talk all the time.

They talk hockey, they talk about things going on in their lives. Their wives are best friends and both Maurice and DeBoer were in each other’s weddings. They are Godfathers to each others’ children.

Yeah, they are close.

One thing they did not talk much about, according to Maurice, was the opening in Florida last summer.

Although DeBoer coached the Panthers back in the day, this was an organization which had undergone wholesale changes since.

DeBoer, by the way, was in talks with Dallas at the time Maurice was meeting with Bill Zito.

The two were hired by their respective teams a day apart in June.

“We spoke after because he had coached here,” Maurice said. “I had been to his house in Weston so my wife and I had visited. We talked about where to live, things like that. He was already the Dallas coach so he was moving as well. We talk all the time, talk at the draft. I trust his brain so much. He is a great source of information.”

Pete deboer

Pete DeBoer stands out in front of his house near Kitchner, Ontario, weeks after being hired as the 10th coach in Florida Panthers history in 2008. // Photo @GeorgeRichards

Neither coach has won the Stanley Cup although they have had their chances.

In 2012, a year after being fired by Dale Tallon, DeBoer’s New Jersey Devils beat the Panthers in the opening round of the playoffs and made it all the way to the Final where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings.

He also went to the Final in 2016 with the Sharks.

Maurice went to the Final once before in 2002 with Carolina.

If they were to meet up, don’t expect much chitchat between the two involving the game itself.

Their friendship will not go out the window, but they will both be of singular mind to win the Cup for their team.

Make no mistake, DeBoer is happy for Maurice and the Panthers being where they are as Maurice is for his friend and team having a chance to make it to the summit.

In December 2021, when DeBoer was coaching in Vegas, Maurice resigned as coach of the Winnipeg Jets.

The two had a long running bet that whomever walked away from the game first would win.

When Maurice left the Jets, DeBoer got a text message from his old pal.

“We’re lifelong coaches, both of us. We started together when we were in our mid-20s,’’ DeBoer told reporters in Las Vegas at the time.

”It was always who was going to walk away first, grab a fishing pole and go to the lake. He texted me today that he won.

“I’m not sure he won’t be back though. We’ll see. I’m not going to pay that debt yet.”

Good thing.

Neither is done just yet.

“I can’t say on my impact on him, but he has had a really big impact on me in being able to share things that head coaches go through,” Maurice said.

“When you have that kind of relationship, you can share deeply. Our personalities are quite different. He has an incredible ability to very quickly get to a problem and not spend a lot of time agonizing about it. He has a very quick mind. We’re constantly cheering for each other.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

THE 2023 STANLEY CUP FINAL
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
OR DALLAS STARS
GAME 1
  • When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas OR AmericanAirlines Center, Dallas
  • TV: TNT
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2, WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Series Schedule — Game 1: Saturday at Dallas/Vegas, 8 (TNT); Game 2: Monday June 5 at DAL/VGK, 8 (TNT); Game 3: Thursday June 8 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 4: Saturday June 10 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 5*: Tuesday June 13 at DAL/VGK, 8 (TNT); Game 6*: Friday June 16 at Florida, 8 (TNT); Game 7*: Monday June 19 at DAL/VGK, 8 (TNT). * – If Necessary
  • 2022-23 Regular Season Series Vs. Vegas (Even 1-1): @Vegas 4, Florida 2 (Jan. 12); @Florida 2, Vegas 1 (March 7)
  • All-time Regular Season Series: vs. Vegas Golden Knights lead 6-3-1
  • 2022-23 Regular Season Series vs. Dallas (Stars Won 2-0):Dallas 6, @Florida 4 (Nov. 17); @Dallas 5, Florida 1 (Jan. 8)
  • All-time Regular Season Series: vs. Dallas Florida leads 24-21-2, 3 ties
  • Postseason History: First meeting vs. both Vegas or Dallas

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