Recently hired Tampa Bay Lightning head coach seems like an interesting fellow who took an unconventional path to the National Hockey League.
A high school hockey player in Saskatchewan, Cooper moved to the United States to attend Hofstra University (next door to Nassau Coliseum) on a lacrosse scholarship. He then attended law school in Michigan and practiced law until 2003 to pursue coaching. Rising through the ranks of the USHL, Cooper ended up the Lightning's AHL coach in both Norfolk and Syracuse, piling up a very good 133-62-26 record in the American Hockey League, and winning the Calder Cup in Norfolk last season.
He held his first pre-game press conference today, and the media contingent from New Jersey (the Devils are at the Tampa Times Forum tonight) were impressed with his candor:
Jon Cooper's news conference this morning was quite interesting/different.Hasn't coached a game yet in NHL, but pretty open guy.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) March 29, 2013
Cooper on coaching his first NHL game tonight: "I'm jacked. This is really, really exciting."— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) March 29, 2013
Cooper: "I wish everybody could feel what I'm feeling right now. Pretty cool."— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) March 29, 2013
Cooper: "I think the most nervous I was was addressing the team the first time."— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) March 29, 2013
Cooper: "I need guidance. I don't even know how to get to Steve Yzerman's office. I need help from the players."— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) March 29, 2013
There will probably be less fun days in his coaching tenure, especially with the Lightning's current goaltending situation, but good for Jon Cooper, he's clearly earned this moment and he appears to be having a good time with it. Incidentally, Peter DeBoer -- his adversary tonight -- is also a former lawyer-turned-head coach. I'd definitely be down with a mock trial instead of a shootout should overtime not be enough solve Devils-Lightning tonight.