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Panthers GM Bill Zito bursts into tears after Stanley Cup win

On Monday night, while the Florida Panthers players were celebrating the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, Bill Zito was in tears.

The Panthers’ general manager was the most emotional in the room, tears of joy streaming uncontrollably down his cheeks after his team avoided a historic 3-0 loss in Game 7 at home.

“He cried for 30 minutes straight. I’m not kidding,” ESPN’s Ray Ferraro said during ABC’s broadcast of the Panthers’ victory celebration, in which Zito hugged his children.

“Bill is an emotional guy. When the Cup was first presented he was in tears as he walked up to where it was presented.”

Panthers general manager Bill Zito was in tears after his team won the Stanley Cup on Monday. A.B.C.
Bill Zito hugged his kids after the Panthers won the Stanley Cup on Monday. A.B.C.

Zito, 59, who signed a contract extension in April that added president of hockey operations to his title, first became the team’s general manager on Sept. 2, 2020 after serving as assistant general manager and vice president of hockey operations with the Blue Jackets.

Zito, who has twin daughters Frankie and Gigi and son Billy with his wife Julie, hired Paul Maurice as the Panthers’ new coach after the 2021-22 season, passing on interim head coach Andrew Brunette despite the team winning the Presidents Trophy and being soundly defeated by the Lightning in the second round of the playoffs.

Morris, who stepped down as Jets head coach in December 2021, led the Panthers to the Cup final last season before losing to the Golden Knights following Monday’s win.

Panthers general manager Bill Zito will hoist the Stanley Cup on Monday night. Getty Images
Panthers general manager Bill Zito embraced head coach Paul Maurice after the team won the Stanley Cup on Monday night. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters
Panthers general manager Bill Zito (right) celebrates with center Anton Randle (left) after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Getty Images

In an interview with ABC’s Emily Kaplan during the celebration, Zito credited Morris for his “emotional intelligence” and the way he treats others, and explained the identity he tried to build with his players.

“In the first half of this series, Matthew [Tkachuk] “Zito handed the game puck over to a team services representative,” he said of the star forward he acquired in a trade two years ago. “I won’t say why, but [but] That doesn’t happen. That’s leadership, that’s kindness, that’s how everybody treats each other. I know that’s the highest compliment, and I know you hear it every time someone wins something, but it’s not that.”

At the end of the interview, Zito was asked what gave him the most satisfaction from winning the Cup.

He looked to his right and began to become overcome with emotion.

“My father is here,” Zito said.