An Interview With Green Bay Gamblers Head Coach Jon Cooper

Jon Cooper has had a crazy couple of days. After having a baby boy a week ago before winning the USHL's Clark Cup days later, Cooper had to prepare for the USHL's three-day long Draft process this week. Despite the wild schedule, Cooper was kind enough to sit down with SB Nation during our Futures Draft coverage on Tuesday morning.

Listen to the show here, and read the transcript of our chat with Cooper below:

SB Nation:  How do you feel about the two players you've selected thus far in the Futures Draft?

Jon Cooper: We feel pretty good. [Gavin] Stoick, he played in Colorado. Big kid, he's a '94 and he's already 6'4". Sometimes people throw around that pro potential for kids, which is great, but we're junior -- a few years before they hit pro. But one thing you can't teach is size and he gets up and down the ice and can put the puck in the net. We're pretty excited about him. And then [Sheldon] Dries out of the Honeybaked program in Michigan, he's kind of your all-around player but he's got some high expectations, some skill and he can put the puck in the net.

SBN: As a coach, what are you looking for with these guys? Are you looking for specifics or do you just take the best all-around player?

JC: Yeah, we kinda just look for that. You're looking for the best players available. We had this discussion last night - if you have six picks and you take six forwards, are you going to be upset? And my thing is if they're the best players available, you take them and sift through it years down the road. We haven't taken a kid in the Futures Draft play for us the next year yet, so these are players for the future. You also have to make sure these guys are going to come. Some kids go to the US program, another is thinking about playing in the Canadian Hockey League, so there's a lot of background you have to do on the players to make sure they want to play in the USHL.

SBN: Could you talk about the process of how you go about finding some of these kids?

JC: Well, we have a full time scout that travels around the country scouting for us. I can't imagine how it was 30 years ago when there was no Internet. Guys were scouting on sticky notes. So, we have a full-time scout, and I'll get out sometimes and my assistants will get out sometimes and we'll compile our lists. We can't get out to see everybody, but our head scout will identify a list of 30 or 40 kids and say, "okay, well, you need to be out here at this time." It's a little difficult for me since I'm with the team all the time, but there are events we can get to to get a little look-see at the players.

SBN: How soon after celebrating the Clark Cup championship does your focus shift to the Draft?

JC: That's a funny question, because Game 5 was played on a Wednesday night. Two days earlier, my wife gave birth to our son. So we had a child on Monday, Game 5 on Wednesday, so I'm running all over the place. We had our banquet on Thursday and before you know it, it's Friday and Saturday. Then we had to prepare for the Expansion Draft on Monday, so its all just blended together. I'm not even sure what day it is today.

SBN: You had a goaltender by the name of Steve Summerhays. Very top notch goaltender, only lost two times during regular season play in regulation. Can you replace a guy like that, or do you have to find another way to find a goaltender?

JC: Believe it or not, the guy that played behind him this year can actually be better than Summerhays. It's a bold statement to make, but Summerhays might even say so himself. Ryan McKay is a few years younger than Steve but he got to play a year in the league before. One thing Summerhays has is that he wins hockey games. He could win you the 7-6 game or the 2-1 game. He hadn't lost a regulation game at the Rec Center in two years until the playoffs this year. With McKay, we got him into 25 plus games and he didn't have the win-loss record, but he had other comparable stats. I really expect him to step in and take the lions share for next year.

SBN: You guys have an unbelievable fan base. How much does that mean to you as a coach and how much does it help in getting guys to play for you as opposed to a WHL or an OHL, because you're selling out the place every night?

JC: It's extremely gratifying. The year before I came - we play in a big facility and we tarp off half the building, so it's basically 6,700 you can fit in the place. The last 3 or 4 years before I came, they were getting 3 to 400 fans a game. The effort was to bring the fans back, and the style our team played - with a bit of an edge - and then we started to win games. We took on a bit of an identity and I think that's what our fans were looking for. The fans really bought in and two years in a row we've had 100,000 in each year and it topped off with the Championship game where we took the tarps off and fit 8,500 in there. It was just an electric atmosphere. It was funny, the owner of the team said he never thought the Rec Center would be too small for a junior hockey game. I told him that for one day we changed a football town to a hockey town and we've become the little darlings here in Green Bay and we want to keep it that way.

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