From NAHL Champion to Stanley Cup Winner - Jon Cooper
written by: David Nicoletti
Jon Cooper has been in the coaching game for almost 20 years now. Starting off as a coach in the NAHL and making his way to the top level (the NHL). All his hard work would pay off and he would soon eventually get the chance to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup. But who is Jon Cooper?
Jon Cooper was born in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada on August 23rd, 1967. Cooper is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Cooper's mother was American, while his father was Canadian. He played high school hockey with the Notre Dame Hounds Juvenile in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. He was the team captain. In College he received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Hofstra University in 1989.
He was big into lacrosse during his high school days. He was a letterman in each of the first four years with the varsity program. Cooper scored 74 goals and 25 assists and was a member of the East Coast Conference championship team in both his junior and senior year.
He also earned a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. Cooper also served as a public defender for 11 years. He would play hockey again while attending law school. This would ultimately lead Cooper to his first experience in coaching hockey at Lansing Catholic Central High School.
After coaching a year with Lansing Catholic Central, and coaching two years in the CSHL with the Metro Jets, as well as two years with Honeybaked 18U AAA. Cooper would eventually land a job as head coach in junior hockey. More specifically, in the NAHL.
Cooper did have a connection with the NAHL before becoming a head coach in the league. He began his coaching career as an assistant with the Capital Centre Pride. He would return to the NAHL with the Texarkana Bandits for their 2003-04 season.
The following season in 2004-05, Cooper was named the NAHL Coach of the Year. The Bandits would then relocate to St. Louis before the start of the 2006-07 season. During the 2006–07 season, the Bandits and Jon Cooper would capture the Robertson Cup as NAHL champions. The following 2007-08 season, they would become back to back Robertson Cup champions. Jon Cooper would then go on to win his second NAHL Coach of the Year that season.
FUN FACT: JON COOPER MAY HAVE COACHED PATRICK MAROON DURING THE 2019-20 SEASON. BUT DID YOU KNOW COOPER ALSO COACHED MAROON DURING PATRICK’S TIME IN THE NAHL FROM 2005-06 TO 2006-07. THE PAIR WOULD GO ON TO WIN THE ROBERTSON CUP TOGETHER IN 2007 WITH THE BANDITS. EVENTUALLY REUNITING THE TWO 12 YEARS LATER AND GOING ON TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP TOGETHER WITH THE LIGHTING IN 2020.
After his five years spent in the NAHL with the Texarkana/St. Louis Bandits. Cooper would move on and become head coach of the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL for two seasons from 2008-09 to 2009-10. He led the team in from his time in Green Bay to a record of 84–27–9, eventually helping the way for Green Bay to win the USHL’s Clark Cup in 2010.
For the 2012–13 season, Cooper became the head coach of the Syracuse Crunch after the Lightning changed their AHL affiliation. In 65 games with the Crunch, Cooper led the team to a 39–18–3–5 record, the best in the AHL at the time of his promotion, but the best was yet to come.
On March 25th, 2013, following the dismissal of head coach Guy Boucher, Cooper was appointed as the Lightning’s head coach. Becoming the eighth head coach in franchise history. After leading the Lightning to their best season in franchise history in points (108) and wins (50), Cooper coached the Tampa Bay Lightning to their second Prince of Wales Trophy as the Eastern Conference Champion. The Lightning would advance to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, but lose to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
From there, on March 30th, 2018, Cooper recorded his 240th career NHL win against the New York Rangers moving Cooper past John Tortorella for most wins in franchise history.
On March 18th, 2019, Cooper coached the Lightning to their first Presidents' Trophy in franchise history with a victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Three days later he would record his 300th career NHL win in a 6–3 Lightning win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
On April 1st, 2019, Cooper coached the Lightning to their 60th win of the season. With the win, the Lightning became only the 3rd team in NHL history to reach the mark and Cooper became the second coach in NHL history to reach the mark. But sadly, during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Cooper and the Lightning were swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets making them the first team to win the President's Trophy, but not win a single postseason game.
Then eventually, during the following 2019-20 season, the demons were exercised. After finishing second in the Eastern Conference and in the Atlantic Division with a 43-21-6 record behind the first place Boston Bruins. On September 28th, 2020, Cooper led the Lightning to the franchise's second Stanley Cup, when they beat the Dallas Stars in six games during the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals.
From all the hard work and dedication, some of Cooper's coaching achievements in his time in the game include two Robertson Cups, a Clark Cup, a Calder Cup, and eventually a Stanley Cup. He is the owner of a Presidents' Trophy and two Prince of Wales Trophies. He won the Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s most outstanding coach. He is a two time Jack Adams Award finalist, and a two time coach in the NHL All-Star Game.
With 578 games coached with the Lighting under his belt. Cooper currently has a head coaching record of 348-180-50. Along with six playoff appearances and a 54-39 record. He is also the owner of two division titles.
He was also named as an assistant coach for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Serving as an assistant coach with Peter DeBoer, Dave Tippett and Jay Woodcroft under Team North America head coach Todd McLellan.
Cooper was also named as the head coach of Canada's men's national ice hockey team for the 2017 IIHF World Championship tournament. Cooper was joined by assistant coaches Gerard Gallant, Dave Hakstol, and Dave King. Cooper would coach the team to a silver medal. After Team Canada lost to Team Sweden 2–1 in a shootout during the gold medal game on May 21st, 2017.
That ladies and gentlemen is who Jon Cooper is and our own Mike Letizia very well could be just like Cooper and one day coach on a NHL bench, and more importantly, win a Stanley Cup.
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