A hater’s guide to the Stanley Cup Final

NHL

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If you’re a Florida Panthers or Vegas Golden Knights fan, you have every reason to tune in when the Stanley Cup Final begins on June 3. You’re one of the lucky ones, congrats.

For other hockey fans, it’s not always easy to get motivated to watch, especially if they are still mourning for their own teams.

It might be too much to ask anyone to find a way to love the Panthers or Golden Knights — especially if they already have established feelings about them — but finding something to hate might be easier.

So we’ve decided to help reveal which team is easier to despise, and by extension help fans find a team to reluctantly cheer for when the festivities get going on Saturday based on their preferences.

There's several reasons to cheer against both the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
There’s several reasons to cheer against both the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

With due respect to Drew Magary, the originator — or at least popularizer — of the hater’s guide premise, and Defector, here’s your hater’s guide to the 2023 Stanley Cup Final.

If you hate people that butt ahead of you in line…

The Golden Knights have only existed for six seasons, and it’s simply not their turn to win a Stanley Cup yet. There are 10 NHL franchises that have never won a title despite existing for 22 or more seasons —including the Panthers, who came into being in 1995-96.

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There are also 10 fanbases that have been waiting at least 30 years for a championship parade.

Vegas deserves plenty of credit for becoming a model NHL franchise in such a short period of time, but they did receive a boost from the league’s generous expansion rules. Perhaps another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final will suffice as a reward.

This team is simply too young to bring home the best trophy in sports.

If you hate the chaos intrinsic to our universe…

It can be extremely difficult to grapple with the notion that a large percentage of the consequential events that occur on this planet are the result of pure randomness — and happenstance can be a more powerful force than anything humans bring about intentionally.

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The Panthers are in position because they snuck into the playoffs due to an inexplicable result in a game they didn’t participate in. The best explanation for their success in the postseason is that a goaltender who has been the worst contract on their books for four years is having a run for the ages.

Eighth seeds are not supposed to win championships, even in a sport like hockey that invites more variance than most. The Golden Knights were the best regular-season team in the Western Conference, and belong in this battle far more than the Panthers do.

Vegas isn’t going to bring order to the universe as a whole, but it might bring some semblance of it to the hockey world.

If you hate salary cap shenanigans…

Some folks are real sticklers for the rules, and those who are might want to side with the Panthers in this series.

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When a local paper has to clarify the Golden Knights “didn’t cheat” prior to the opening of the playoffs, it’s worth examining what they did do.

Essentially Vegas has been stashing tons of salary on LTIR, and the team has been questioned for bringing back Stone in the playoffs after keeping his cap hit off the books for much of the regular season, allowing them to bolster their roster at the trade deadline.

Nothing Vegas has done is explicitly illegal or even unprecedented. We saw a similar situation with Nikita Kucherov in Tampa Bay during the 2020-21 season.

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But if you want to call it greasy and throw your lot in with Florida, that’s understandable.

If you hate dirty play…

While the Stanley Cup playoffs is known for featuring plenty of physical play by every team, there is a little bit of a discrepancy here.

Panthers center Sam Bennett has developed a reputation for dangerous hits in recent years and he has crossed the line a few times during these playoffs. Florida also employs Radko Gudas, who is known as “Radko the Butcher” on account of his violent collisions, many of which aren’t on the up-and-up.

Alex Pietrangelo’s brutal slash against Leon Draisaitl in these playoffs has the Golden Knights surrendering some of the moral high ground, but for more of the playoffs they’ve been victims rather than perpetrators.

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The Edmonton Oilers went after Mark Stone in an unsavoury way in the second round. Then, in the conference final, it was Jamie Benn with a senseless attack on Vegas’s captain.

If you don’t want to see dangerous play get rewarded, the Golden Knights are probably your team.

If you hate anyone over the age of 30…

To be honest, this is a pretty extreme stance that we can’t in good conscience endorse.

That said, there may be members of Gen Z and Gen Alpha who feel that previous generations have done them dirty, and there’s some validity to that position. For those folks, the team of the youths in this year’s Stanley Cup Final is undoubtedly the Panthers.

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Of the 18 skaters Florida has been rolling out during these playoffs, just three of them are over the age of 30 — Eric Staal, Marc Staal and Gudas. On the other side, Vegas has seven, not including iron man Phil Kessel, who has been parked on the bench.

The Golden Knights have the youth advantage between the pipes, but even the most ageist fans can forgive Sergei Bobrovsky in his advanced years considering how well he’s played.

Considering the disproportionate amount of attention the Maple Leafs get in the hockey world, it’s understandable to dislike this fanbase. Toronto fans have plenty of excuses about the quality of the teams the Maple Leafs have lost to in recent seasons, and you may not want them to get another one.

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If the Golden Knights are able to take down Florida, particularly in humiliating fashion, the Maple Leafs — and their fans — can’t take any positives from being beaten by the Panthers.

A Vegas win is unlikely to provide an end the “how do this affect the Maple Leafs” tenor of NHL coverage, something we are not necessarily innocent of in this space. But it will be a minor victory for those who have developed a hatred for all things Buds.

If you hate a cringey social media presence…

Many NHL teams’ Twitter accounts play things safe, with a dump-and-chase approach to posting that may not create game-changing plays but prevents dangerous counterattacks.

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The Golden Knights are not one of those teams. That may sound like a positive, but the club’s looser approach leads to plenty of posts that will have some fans’ eyes rolling deep into the back of their skull. Here is a representative sample:

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