NHL Video: The Jon Cooper Story
April 14, 2015
The story behind Tampa Bay Lighting head coach Jon Cooper is a fascinating tale of a path most traveled. From pounding the pavement on Wall Street, to the endless jobs as a junior and minor league coach, Jon Cooper’s story is as unique as it gets in the National Hockey League.
The Tampa Bay Lighting are once again making their way back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Jon Cooper is a big reason why. It is how he has earned the reputation as the most interesting man in hockey.
Excerpt from the video: One of Cooper’s first coaching jobs was as an assistant with the Capital Centre Pride in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). “I was actually going to get out of coaching because I was struggling, not making much money, had to make a living and I had my law degree. It was at that point that Kelly Chase, Mike Brooks and Brett Hull approached me because they were starting an NAHL team in Texarkana.”
Cooper continued… “I knew it was they only way to coach full-time. We were putting in the boards ourselves, we were putting in the ice ourselves and we were trying to make hockey work in a market that was non-traditional. We would lose our ice in February and were driving the guys 120 miles just to go practice. That’s when I learned, you never take anything for granted.”
Cooper began his NAHL coaching career with the Texarkana Bandits in the 2003-04 season. He coached in the NAHL a total of five seasons. Twice during his time in the league he was honored as the NAHL Coach of the Year, in 2004-05 and again in 2007-08.
In his first three seasons in Texarkana, Cooper’s teams got better each season. By the time the franchise has moved to St. Louis in 2006-07, Cooper had developed the Bandits into a Robertson Cup contender. During the 2006-07 season, the Bandits and Cooper finally realized their dream and won the Robertson Cup. The next season, the Bandits and Cooper did it again.
Cooper’s first experience as a coach in juniors was with the Capital Centre Pride of the NAHL, where has was an assistant. At that particular time, the Pride were working closely with the Metro Jets (NA3HL). It so happened that Cooper was moving to the Metro area to practice law and Capital Centre needed a new assistant coach. The head coach of the Jets at the time, Chris Werstine, moved up to the NAHL with Capital Centre, while Cooper moved to Metro in the CSHL (now NA3HL). After Jets Owner and Governor Butch Wolfe met with Cooper, he still very much wanted to coach, so he got his first shot to be a head coach with the Jets organization. He helped the team win the Hurster Cup (now the Silver Cup) in 2002 before moving back up to the NAHL to coach the expansion Texarkana Bandits in 2003.