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Paul Maurice: ‘Really Love’ Coaching the Florida Panthers

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Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice speaks during a news conference after Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals on June 10 in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Paul Maurice had a typical Paul Maurice postgame moment following the Florida Panthers resounding win in Ottawa on Thursday night.

Not long after commenting on Steven Lorentz’s play by mentioning that his winger spent part of the game throwing up, Maurice appeared to get a little choked up himself when talking about his long coaching career.

With the victory, Maurice moved into fourth place on the NHL all-time list with 865 wins.

Maurice passed Lindy Ruff and is now 49 wins behind Barry Trotz for third.

“What hits me sometimes is that I used to think if I could coach 500 games in this league, that would be something else because the average number is like 250 or 350,” Maurice said following Florida’s 6-0 win over the Senators. “Then you hit it, and you’re like ‘if I could get 500 wins, that would be something.’ Then you just start getting older.

“I have more fun coaching the game than I ever have in my life. I like the game and where it’s at; I really love these players and this organization. I have been lucky. I have worked with great teams and great people and that’s kind of how I got here today.’’

Maurice has been coaching in the NHL for so long, he is among the NHL coaching leaders in a host of categories including one he does not like bringing up.

Yes, Maurice is the NHL all-time leader with 736 losses.

Considering he is just 57 and shows no signs of slowing down, it may be a record that never gets broken.

The NHL losses record is something critics bring up whenever it suits, but the truth is, Maurice had been stuck with some pretty bad teams throughout his career.

His start in the NHL came behind the bench of the Hartford Whalers in 1995 — during the Panthers’ third season of existence — when he was promoted as a first-year assistant coach 12 games into that season.

Maurice, then 28, was the second-youngest coach in NHL history at the time.

He coached the Whalers for two seasons and then moved with them to North Carolina where he helped grow the game with the renamed Hurricanes.

Maurice also coached a pretty crummy Toronto team and eventually went back to Carolina.

After doing some TV work and coaching in the KHL, Maurice came back behind the bench to take over the former Atlanta Thrashers in Winnipeg.

When he was hired to coach the Panthers in 2022, it was easily the best situation he had ever stepped foot in.

Helping take a very good Florida team to new heights was something that excited him.

“After you spend some time in the league, you start to understand the importance of style and fit in coaching,’’ he told FHN after being hired in 2022. “The fit has to be with management and ownership. When I stepped back from the game, I kind of made myself a deal that I was going to only ever consider going back if all the pieces were there.

“I want to enjoy my job and I want to enjoy my life. In order for that to happen, you have got to be in a place where your family can thrive, where you have a team that has a chance to win.

“The biggest part of it is you have to work with people who you feel can make you better. So, I know my job is to come in here and take this team to another place but one of the big drivers for me, I believe, is the people here are going to make me a better coach.”

Now, Maurice is trying to get the Panthers one step further than last year.

Florida made it to the Stanley Cup Final in Maurice’s first year behind the helm.

It was the Panthers’ second trip to the Final in franchise history; it was Maurice’s second trip, the first coming in 2002 with the Hurricanes.

Together, Maurice and the Panthers are chasing the same great goal.

“You can’t understand it until you are there and there is nothing harder than going to the Stanley Cup Final,’’ Maurice said as training camp opened. “It is the most painful thing you can go through.

“The benefit to our hockey team now is they all understand that. All we’re going to fight now is ‘because we got to the Final, it’s going to be easier.’ Last year we dealt with the hard. This year we have to deal with the dangers of easy. That’s a two-headed dragon.”

As for Lorentz?

“He played through the game while intermittently vomiting,” Maurice said. “He has kind of come back and reinvented himself as a player. He is physical, fast. He killed penalties, blocked shots … and vomiting. I thought those were outstanding features of his game today.”

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ BOSTON BRUINS

  • When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
  • Where: TD Garden, Boston
  • TV/Streaming: ABC/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932; NHL App
  • Last Season — Regular Season: Tied 2-2; Playoffs: Florida won 4-3 (first-round)
  • This season (Bruins Lead 3-0) — At Boston: Bruins 3, Panthers 2 OT (Oct.30); Saturday. At Florida: Bruins 3, Panthers 1 (Nov. 22); Bruins 4, Panthers (March 26).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Boston leads 63-37-7, 6 ties
  • All-time Postseason Series: Florida leads 2-0 (1996, 2023)
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday vs. Ottawa, 7 p.m.

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