After blowing a late-game lead and shedding, the Inexperienced Bay Gamblers hockey gamers acquired a easy order from their coach, a former lawyer named Jon Cooper: For his or her subsequent observe again residence, meet at a neighborhood park at 7 a.m.
After they arrived, the one hint of Cooper was a notice, left underneath a puck in the course of a soccer discipline.
“That is what it appears like after we present as much as each sport and also you guys don’t!” it learn. “Determine it out!”
“That fully flipped our season,” stated Pat McCadden, the captain of that 2009-10 Gamblers crew. Their season ended with a Clark Cup, the championship of america Hockey League, the nation’s high junior league.
Cooper would elevate the 2020 Stanley Cup a decade later, in his seventh season as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“That’s simply Coop, man,” stated Jeff Mitchell, Inexperienced Bay’s president of hockey operations, who was a part of the group that employed Cooper in 2008. “He’s obtained that particular sauce.”
Since leaving regulation in 2003 to dedicate himself full time to hockey, Cooper, 53, has gained championships with each crew he has coached: at: two ranges of junior hockey, within the American Hockey League and within the N.H.L.
Requested to record the secrets and techniques to his success, Cooper smiled barely and offered his admittedly inventory reply.
“One, understanding life,” he stated. “Two, a loyal canine. And three, a superb goaltender.”
Those that have performed for Cooper, employed him and witnessed his handiwork say his capacity to make changes and join with all forms of gamers has been integral to his success.
“To be a superb trainer, you may have to have the ability to get essentially the most out of gamers in numerous methods,” stated Kelly Chase, a former N.H.L. participant who owned a part of the primary crew that Cooper coached after ending his regulation profession. “Coop understands how to do this.”
Not like the overwhelming majority of his friends, Cooper by no means performed organized hockey past highschool, although he performed lacrosse at Hofstra College on Lengthy Island.
Whereas Cooper was working as a public defender in Lansing, Mich., a district court docket decide requested him to educate his son’s highschool crew. The Lansing State Journal named Cooper the Michigan Coach of the Yr after his first yr on the job.
Chase, a good friend of Cooper’s since their highschool days at a boarding college in Saskatchewan, got here calling a number of years later.
Chase and some different traders had bought a North American Hockey League growth crew in Texarkana, Texas.
Cooper’s duties as coach of the Texarkana Bandits included portray the ice, promoting season tickets and driving a van to observe.
Pat Maroon, who’s in his second season with the Lightning, first performed for Cooper as a 17-year-old in the course of the Bandits’ 2005-06 season. He blossomed from a self-described obese and sluggish baby into the N.A.H.L.’s most precious participant in his second season underneath Cooper.
“He had all 24 guys play for him each single night time,” Maroon advised an Edmonton newspaper in 2016. He’s one of many causes I’m the place I’m now.”
A key to Cooper’s success, Chase stated, is that he doesn’t cease studying.
Chase recalled using in a automotive as soon as with Cooper and pondering that the coach’s musical choice was unusual. Cooper advised him it was what his crew, then largely youngsters, was listening to within the locker room. “If you happen to’re not,” Chase recalled Cooper saying, “you may’t determine them out.”
McCadden, now the affiliate head coach at Lawrence College in Wisconsin, stated that Cooper knew the way to handle folks effectively and that his composure reassured gamers.
“So many coaches lose their thoughts over an offsides name within the first interval, however Coop was so good in no matter scenario we had been in,” McCadden stated.
After three seasons with the Lightning’s A.H.L. affiliate, Cooper’s uncommon profession arc reached hockey’s highest rung with 16 video games left within the 2012-13 season.
Cooper had fast credibility with the Lightning, as 10 of their gamers had been with him within the minors in Norfolk, Va., and Syracuse, N.Y. He finally earned credibility with veterans, too, together with Steven Stamkos, who has been with Tampa Bay since 2008 and has been its captain since 2014.
“At that stage, you may have all Sort-A personalities,” stated George Gwozdecky, one of many Lightning’s assistant coaches throughout Cooper’s first two full seasons within the N.H.L. “He has the reward of with the ability to deliver all these A-types collectively. That an ideal a part of his expertise.”
Success got here early for Cooper in Tampa Bay, however not a championship — not like elsewhere. In his first full season, the Lightning reached the playoffs once more after a two-year hiatus. They misplaced to Chicago within the Stanley Cup finals in 2015. In 2018-19, they gained 62 video games and the Presidents Trophy however had been swept within the first spherical of the playoffs by Columbus.
Stamkos stated Cooper has improved as a coach over time, creating favorable matchups within the playoffs and understanding what buttons to push together with his gamers. He has had the advantage of continuity as a number of key gamers — Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson — have been with the Lightning for his total tenure.
Many profitable coaches have benefited from working with star gamers, and Cooper is not any exception, with previous trophy winners on his roster: Vezina (Andrei Vasilevskiy), Maurice “Rocket” Richard (Stamkos) and Norris (Hedman).
However Cooper’s groups have succeeded even at lower than full energy. The Lightning made the playoffs in 2013-14 regardless of Stamkos’s enjoying solely 37 video games, and final yr Stamkos was injured on Feb. 25 and didn’t play once more till Sport 3 of the finals, when he took simply 5 shifts and scored on his solely shot of the sport.
“All these new conditions he’s been confronted with and needed to handle have made him all the higher geared up to be probably the greatest hockey coaches on this planet,” stated Julien BriseBois, the Lightning normal supervisor who ran the A.H.L. crew throughout Cooper’s tenure there.
In truth, amongst coaches with not less than 500 profession video games, solely the retired Corridor of Famer Scotty Bowman (.657) had a greater factors proportion than Cooper (.645) getting into this season.
Cooper, or anybody else, is unlikely to match Bowman’s 9 Stanley Cups, however persevering with to get higher at his job appears a extra possible profession path.
“It’s a continuing course of with him,” Stamkos stated.