As the Stanley Cup Finals roar on, the owners of the Florida Panthers and Las Vegas Golden Knights have taken steps to ensure that others will benefit from their teams’ success.
Prior to Game 1 last week in Las Vegas, the NHL clubs announced a partnership in which a $100,000 donation will be made to a veteran service organization after the title has been awarded.
Bill Foley, owner of the Golden Knights, chose the Folded Flag Foundation as the recipient of the $100,000 donation if his team wins the Stanley Cup. Panthers owner Vincent Viola chose Gold Star Teen Adventures to receive the hefty donation if Florida rises triumphant and wins the cup.
The Panthers took a major step back into the series Thursday night at FLA Live Arena with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 3, trimming the Vegas series lead to 2-1. Game 4 is on Saturday night in Sunrise.
Both Foley and Viola are graduates of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Both are also distinguished military veterans who have built their organizations with several ties back to the armed forces.
But the competition between the two goes beyond the ice. That’s because they agreed that the donation to their organization of choice is to come from the losing team. If Vegas wins, Viola will fund the FFF. If Florida wins, Foley will fund GSTA. So, it’s more than just an honorable pledge. It’s a wager between former soldiers.
The Folded Flag Foundation, based in Nevada, is a family-assistance organization centered around supporting loved ones who have lost a service member in the line of duty. Standing as a beacon of remembrance and goodwill, the outfit shows appreciation to those lost in the midst of battle by aiding their grieving families in a time of need.
Among the FFF’s methods of assistance are educational scholarships and support grants for spouses and children. Though a world without a father or husband, or a mother or wife, is inconceivable to many, the FFF understands and strives to help.
The foundation has served the veteran community for more than eight years and has covered three presidential terms, since its creation in 2015. In place of the limited government funding that is currently offered to surviving family members, the FFF relies on donations to help meet its annual goals, and thus, help to better serve loved ones.
In the upcoming school year, for instance, the FFF has established a goal to raise $6 million in scholarship funding to help children pursue their dreams.
Gold Star Teen Adventures is a North Carolina-based organization created for children of fallen military service members, as well, and it strives to provide a place to bond and explore their feelings with a group of like-minded youth. Camps and clinics such as an outdoor academy, a scuba academy and a first-aid adventure series help to provide an escape from the every day for those children.
The organization’s primary mission is to provide a helping hand to teens and children who might have a hard time adjusting to the loss of a parent. Stepping in to teach critical life skills – through team-exercise building and leadership roles – is among the foundation’s strategies.
Panthers president and CEO Matthew Caldwell, like Viola, holds a degree from West Point, and the two have made it a point to venture into military collaborations like this one. In 2021, in fact, the Panthers elected to build a new training facility, taking over the War Memorial in Ft. Lauderdale, and the two executives utilized the opportunity to again give back to the military community along the way.
“We’re veteran-owned and we hire veterans throughout the organization,” Caldwell said at the time. “I feel like this project hits every pillar.”
But while only one foundation will stand out as the bet’s beneficiary, both owners, both franchises and the NHL will come out as winners in the hearts of veterans and their families.
On Thursday, Viola’s club prevented Foley’s team from taking a commanding 3-0 series lead and kept the bet from being a runaway. Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk scored late in the third period to force overtime in Game 3, and teammate Carter Verhaeghe scored the winning goal in the extra session, much to the delight of the home crowd.
“We’re that type of team where we know what the end goal is,” Tkachuk said after the win. “We don’t know how we’re going to get there sometimes. But we know we’re going to do everything we can to give ourselves an opportunity to get there.”
“We’ve been in this situation so many times. Pretty much since January, we’ve been a desperate hockey team,” he said after overtime. “We know how much wins mean. We play desperate, and we always find a way.”