Paul Maurice goes away with a final victory

The morning Paul Maurice left his job as the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets, he sent a message to his longtime friend Pete DeBoer, the head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The inscription was read simply: ‘I win.’

Watch one of the most respected coaches in the business, a man sitting sixth all time in NHL games, coach, turn the business around by deciding in advance that it’s time must change, it’s hard not to think that Maurice was present- on.

Some would view this move as bold or even courageous. Some might wonder if there was any challenge to Maurice’s last words in the town he calls home since taking over for the 2013-14 season.

We don’t see that in Maurice. Completely opposite.

In our final moments with the local press, we saw a man who was very comfortable in his own skin and very attuned to his own skill set – and generally suited to the needs of the world. his shortcomings – so much so that he felt this was the only reasonable decision. make.

“This is a good team,” Maurice said. “I’m a good coach.”

But what happens when you realize you can only push part of the rock up the mountain? You have to walk.

“That’s where I feel I am,” Maurice said.

Who better to know that this team needs fresh eyes, a refreshing voice than a man who has invested as much as him?

“They need a new voice,” says Maurice, 54. “They need someone to help them get to their next location.

“I’m cheering for these boys,” he added. “I love these boys. I love this place. I know that the time has come.”

But in believing in the team and their potential, he said he also realized he didn’t feel he could make them reach that potential.

“We have always been consistent where we can,” he said.

Maurice talked about the past few years, playing in the bubble, playing without fans and how it took away the joy he has for his job, life as an NHL head coach. During the Maurice offseason, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, owner Mark Chipman, and members of Maurice’s coaching staff had candid discussions about whether Maurice was the one to get the Jets over the hump.

Clearly feeling that he could be that man. Until it is not.

Cheveldayoff didn’t exactly address the question of whether he would have fired Maurice if he hadn’t quit, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. And really, that’s a moot point because of how all this came about.

Dave Lowry, whose son, Adam, is on the Jets’ roster, will take over as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Maurice is leaving the organization, but immediately denied any notion that he’ll be in the market for some other type of NHL job — or media work for that matter.

“I feel good,” Maurice said. “I feel good. I don’t have a match with the coach tonight and I don’t have to take the job tomorrow.”

Hearing what was truly a remarkable moment, I tried to think about the first time I met Maurice. We shared history in Windsor, Ontario, and on more than one occasion we compared notes on the favored watering holes in the border town where he first played as a promising young player. hope and then trained after an eye injury ended his chance to play in the NHL.

I started a newspaper business in Windsor, although I guess it was a trip to Raleigh during the first season of the Storm there, where we first met Maurice. He became the NHL head coach at the age of 28 couldn’t have been younger at Hartford, shortly before the franchise’s move to North Carolina, and was instantly hooked on a young reporter still trying to figure things out when working at a new national newspaper based in Toronto.

I remember watching the 2002 Stanley Cup Final, when Maurice’s Hurricane was hopelessly overtaken by a team of the Detroit Red Wings with the future Hall of Fame. Two decades later, what still remains is Maurice’s seemingly inexhaustible patience when speaking to reporters after official press conferences.

Perhaps Maurice realizes that he should enjoy every moment, understanding that you never know when or if you’ll ever get to that point again, given the sometimes ruthless nature of the game. But his openness is something that will be a hallmark of Maurice, his willingness to get involved not only in hockey but also in the larger elements of sport and relationships. relationships and, well, life.

A few years ago, I called Maurice to tell me about a story I was working on about DeBoer as the Sharks were making their way to the 2019 Western Conference Finals.

He was on his way to the family cottage in Manitoba. The reception was terrible and I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Finally I asked if we could reschedule the call. No problem. It meant so much to Maurice that he could talk about his friend and early days back, his roommate. So making the call again is a minor inconvenience.

I remember a similar conversation with Maurice when longtime Carolina GM Jim Rutherford was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame a few years ago. The quest is different from most traditional Hall of Fame records; find someone who can most comprehensively explain what made the Hall of Famer mentioned become a Hall of Famer.

I immediately think of Maurice and how quickly Maurice reacted, recalling the details and moments that helped demonstrate his affection for Rutherford as a friend and mentor who hired and fired him. it twice before.

Maurice describes how he always feels better talking to Rutherford – who has just been appointed interim president and GM in Vancouver, by the way – even when Rutherford is firing him.

I must admit that I feel the same way about many of my conversations with Maurice over the years.

While it’s not a conversation in the traditional sense, it feels like the way I heard Friday morning over social media when Maurice explained why he left his job to just 32 people. in the world get at the same time.

Perhaps he could have stayed and the Jets, sitting just three points behind a wild card in the Western Conference. Perhaps the team could have found a groove that they seemed to have missed most of the year.

But Maurice feels he can’t take that risk, can’t risk that they’ll go all the way to the end of the season and he’ll regret not doing what he feels in his heart he needs to do. this time.

“I just don’t want to watch these guys fight for the rest of the year when I think they might be better off with someone else,” Maurice said.

Perhaps that was part of what Maurice meant when he told DeBoer he won because of course, almost 100% of the time, it was the GM and/or the owner who decided that the watch had run out of time.

But we guess what Maurice really meant was that he looked deep in the mirror and instead of offering excuses or justifications or dim hopes, he saw a coach who didn’t need to be. more training.

Oh my gosh, so refreshing.

Not just for a hockey coach, but how many of us really have a sense of self-awareness and decide that what seems like a difficult choice is actually the right choice?

How is that anything but a win?

This seems to put it all into perspective.

Maurice recalls his first day in Winnipeg on January 12, 2014 and he feels it was a good day for the Jets and certainly a good day for Paul Maurice.

“Today was a great day too,” the former coach said before stepping out of the Jets’ media room one last time. “For the Jet and me too.” Paul Maurice goes away with a final victory

Britta Zeltmann

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