TAMPA — After the Lightning won the first of back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2020, Liz Koharski achieved a rare NHL milestone.
She became only the 17th woman to have her name engraved on the league’s championship trophy since the Cup was first engraved in 1893 and the first since Los Angeles Kings co-owner Nancy Anschutz in 2014.
A total of 3,333 names (some more than once) have been engraved on the Cup, with another 52 to be added when the trophy is engraved with the names of the Lightning’s 2021 championship team this offseason.
“That’s what I have wanted since I was in college and decided to work in pro hockey,” said Koharski, the daughter-in-law of former NHL referee Don Koharski.
“I want to win the Stanley Cup. I want to get my name on the Stanley Cup, and I know, obviously, I’m not a player, but (I) just work hard, keep my head down, do what I have to do, and to see it finally ... materialize, holy smokes.”
Koharski, who enters her 17th season with the organization, isn’t widely known by Lightning fans. She’s not a player, coach or the general manager, but her role is as integral to the team as any.
As the director of hockey administration, Koharski deals with all of the immigration paperwork for incoming staffers and players. When the team went to Stockholm in 2019 for the Global Series against Buffalo, for instance, it was Koharski’s job to make sure that all of the personnel involved had the correct visas for the trip.
Koharski also acts as a liaison between the team and the league’s central registry when it comes to contracts and transactions. When a player is called up from the AHL (or sent down) or when a player is placed on or removed from the injured reserve list, she coordinates those transactions with the central registry.
In addition, Koharski is the main contact for the entire scouting staff when it comes to setting up meetings, coordinating schedules, organizing the expense reports and other tasks.
If that isn’t enough, Koharski also is the contact for the team’s staff when it comes to setting up the room for players’ and coaches’ families during home games. In the postseason bubbles in 2020, Koharski coordinated the care packages — electronic photo frames and other swag — for those in Canada and their families back home.
“It’s kind of like a mom a lot of the time,” Koharski said, laughing. “It’s a jack of all trades, basically.”
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Koharski, 45, said she didn’t have any female role models in the industry as she was coming up in her career, so she wants to serve as an example for women with similar aspirations.
“I can (be that role model),” she said. “I have no doubt that I can.”
Koharski said she is still as in love with her job as she was when she started her career in 1998. The best part? No two days are the same.
“I’m not idle, and I’m not complacent,” she said. “It’s not just me on the hamster wheel doing blah, blah, the same thing every day. The unpredictability that anything can happen at any moment just keeps me on my toes.”
While Koharski’s schedule is hectic, moments like watching the Lightning hoist the Stanley Cup on home ice in 2021 — becoming the first team to do so since the 2015 Blackhawks — make the tough ones all the more worthwhile.
“Everyone says it’s once in a lifetime, well, it really was once in a lifetime,” Koharski said. “Last year was completely different, so this year was an unbelievable experience to be there firsthand, witnessing it all and being able to participate. I can’t even put into words what that was like.
“That’s all I’ve wanted for 20-some-odd years, and to finally achieve it was out of this world. ... It still gives me shivers.”
• • •
The Tampa Bay Times will commemorate the Lightning’s second consecutive Stanley Cup title with a new hardcover coffee table book, Striking Twice. Pre-order now.
Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.