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Joe Maddon’s past and present NHL loyalties collide with Stanley Cup Final

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Joe Maddon forged many relationships with the area’s other professional sports franchises while serving nine seasons as the Tampa Bay Rays manager before joining the Chicago Cubs. Given those parameters, it should come as no surprise that the Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lighting and the Chicago Blackhawks puts him in quite the precarious position.

The savvy skipper is doing a fine job of spinning plates as he attempts to honor past allegiances while trying to curry favor with the passionate sports fanbase in Chicago when asked who exactly he is rooting for in the Stanley Cup Final.

To put it simply, no one.

Maddon tried to be as diplomatic as possible when asked about which team he’s pulling for when the Blackhawks and Lightning square off in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

“May the best team win,” Maddon replied, according to CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine. “I am becoming a Blackhawks fan, as I should be. I do have some roots back there in Tampa Bay. I know coach (Lightning coach Jon) Cooper really well. He is a really good guy. I have not met coach (Joel) Quenneville yet.”

In the end, he’s hoping for an entertaining series, but did mention that he has been in contact with Cooper as the Lightning coach has been frequenting Ava, a restaurant co-owned by Maddon, recently.

“I am really excited about watching the whole thing,” Maddon said. “It should be a very powerful series. I hate to say let the best team win, but I will say let the best team win. Coach Cooper was just at Ava the last few days. He has been texting me a little bit. I watched the game last night and it was a pretty incredible victory. You could see how they broke the will of the other team. I just think if you are a hockey fan you really have to be into this thing.”

Maddon played this sticky situation in an admirably artful manner. Not only did he technically pick a winner, he went out of his way to praise the Blackhawks’ skill and athleticism and also revealed he watched the team’s series-clinching, Game 7 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Well played.

Cubs fans should take solace in the fact that their favorite baseball team has one smooth operator running the dugout.

[H/T Puck Daddy]