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The Belt

Florida's victory award has become an important part of the team's success this season.

Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 12:30 PM ET / News
By Carly Peters  - FloridaPanthers.com
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The Belt
The Panthers "Belt" given following victories to one player who "steps up" in helping the team earn two points.
As the Panthers ride a hot streak and lead their division at the latest point of any season in franchise history, it may be a piece of plastic that helps Florida make a long-awaited appearance in the postseason.
 
It’s known simply as “The Belt.”

It’s made of lightweight plastic and is striking gold in color, outlined in Panthers red. Its centered medallion includes the Panthers logo and is worthy of any heavyweight title.
 
Awarded after a victory, it is given to a player who “steps up” and helps the Panthers earn a win.
 
And while it’s no surprise that goaltender Jose Theodore, with his stellar play and clutch saves, has taken home the honors the most times this season, it is more telling to note the last two Panthers who have been presented with The Belt: Krys Barch and John Madden.
 
To showcase what separates The Belt recipient from say, the No. 1 Star of the Game, look no further than Brian Campbell. The Panthers alternate captain could arguably be the team’s MVP this season, and yet, according to him, he’s never been awarded the trophy.
 
While Campbell seems completely comfortable admitting he’s never had The Belt bestowed on him, it’s a fairly surprising fact – one that illustrates the purpose of the honor.
 
The Belt is not typically reserved for the best player of a game; rather, it’s presented to an unsung hero, a guy who makes one big play that helps lead the Cats to victory.
 
On Tuesday, it was Barch, who bloodied Toronto’s Jay Rosehill in a heavyweight fight, after Rosehill toppled John Madden with a hit.
 
On Thursday, it was Madden himself, after forcing a turnover and driving to a net for his first goal and point with the Panthers.
 
The Belt sitting in Krys Barch's locker. Barch earned the award following the Maple Leafs game.
“Sometimes it doesn’t always go to the guy who gets the most points, but maybe does a little gutter work, a little iron work – some things that go unnoticed some nights,” said Barch. “I think maybe I did something that night that not everyone would notice, but maybe helped with getting two points.”
 
And really, that’s what The Belt is all about: winning.
 
The idea to award a player with an honored keepsake after a victory is nothing new in hockey.
 
For years, numerous teams have used hard hats and other props to congratulate a player for success in a game. Recently, the gifts have branched out into more unique ideas, including the New York Rangers’ fedora “Broadway” hat and the St. Louis Blues’ hat of a giant hot dog to honor their “Weenie of the Game.”
 
The decision to use a plastic toy as the memento of importance this season came after the Panthers leadership had famed boxer “Irish” Micky Ward come and speak with the team before the start of the season.
 
The Panthers’ training camp was themed with boxing in mind, and the team’s pump-up video was based on the movie about Ward’s life and career, “The Fighter.”
 
Certainly, a toy Championship Belt would be the perfect keepsake for the upcoming season.
 
While Head Coach Kevin Dineen’s choice of motivational speaker may have ultimately influenced this season’s game “award,” he lets The Belt presentation be something for the players themselves.
 
“I never stick around to see who has it or who doesn’t,” said Dineen. “Usually, I’ll say a little quick something to the room and I might catch it the odd time, but really, for the most part, I’ve kind of kept that the players’ spot.”
 
It’s easy to see that the players deeply respect The Belt and its presentation, where the player who most recently was honored with the trophy awards it to the teammate he thinks most deserves it.
 
“I think for everybody who gets it, it’s a big deal,” said Madden. “It’s appreciation of your teammates for what you contribute to the team.
 
“On many nights, it’s a tough decision when you win a game because it’s not just one guy doing it out there, it’s everybody…There’s many nights where you could choose three, four, five guys and that’s what it takes to win.”
 
After The Belt is awarded to a player, it often finds its way onto a shelf of his locker room stall, sitting as a proud reminder of his contribution to the team’s success. The members of the team’s equipment staff are sure to pack it like any other item of gear when Florida travels to a road game.
 
While the trophy may be awarded after a win, the prop itself has contributed to the Panthers’ success this season by being an instrument of team bonding for a group of teammates that are noticeably close.
 
“It’s good to kind of keep everybody together in the locker room,” said Campbell. “For me, it can go to any different number of people on a given night, so I think that’s just the camaraderie of it all that works well with us.”
 
And, as Coach Dineen remarked about The Belt “Of course, the gaudy factor is fairly high, which probably makes it all the more fun.”
 
Players do enjoy razzing each other about the award and especially relish the chance to present it to a teammate.
 
The Belt sits in John Madden's locker following his first goal of the season against the Bruins.
“It was funny because there were about 30 seconds left on the clock [Thursday] and we were sitting on the bench and Barchy goes, ‘Hey, who should I give The Belt to?’” Madden recalled. “So, I gave him a couple of suggestions and when we came in, he started laughing and handed me The Belt.”
 
“I kind of had an idea [that I’d give it to him]; I just wanted to be sure he didn’t say himself,” quipped Barch, with a grin. “I was testing him out before I gave it to him.
 
“There’s a lot of stressful situations throughout the year, and if you can kind of get a laugh here and there and kind of pick somebody up with confidence through a belt or hard hat, it’s always nice to do.”
 
As important as The Belt has become to the Panthers this season, they know they can only enjoy it with a victory.
 
As Madden pointed out, it’s ultimately not about earning The Belt yourself, but instead ensuring the Panthers will be able to celebrate it again after the next game.
 
“I’m excited for us to win [Saturday] and see who I can give it to.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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