FEATURE LIFE — 12 October 2016

Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach John Cooper

Tampa, FL. June 16, 2015
The Tampa Bay Lightning engage with fans upon their return to Tampa
following Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

 

 

“Get us to the Dance”

 

Fans, along with the entire team, have high hopes for a winning hockey season. Hired as the Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach three years ago, Jon Cooper has the dedication and passion for winning. With a law degree and plans to become a sports agent, Jon Cooper is not your typical coach. He never played professional hockey, in fact, he played lacrosse in college. His coaching career started with junior hockey, then minor leagues and the Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League, before he became the National Hockey League’s Lightning Coach in 2013.

METRO had a chance to catch up with Coach Cooper to find out a about his charity fishing tournament and his goals for the season.

METRO: What are your goals for the team this season?

COOPER: “Well naturally, every season the easy one is to sit here and say our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. But, there are goals that have to happen before that and you have to make the playoffs. So it’s one of those, you can’t count your eggs before they’re hatched, because if you don’t get in the playoffs, you can’t win the Stanley Cup. So, that is something that is paramount with us is, get us to the dance, then we go from there.”

METRO: What is a typical day as a head coach?

COOPER: “I’m not so sure you can use the word typical and what a head coach does in the same sentence because it is ever-evolving. I do know that when things get really broken down to their basics, it’s game day, practice day, off day. And the off days don’t happen near enough, but many times you don’t even know what day of the week it is just because you’re so consumed in the job. Everything from your video, to your players, your one-on-one meetings, your team practices, your obligations to the media, your obligations to sponsors or season ticket holders, the list goes on and on. It’s different every day and that what makes the job fun.”

METRO: Five words to describe yourself.

COOPER: “Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach”

METRO: What activities or hobbies do you have when you’re not working?

COOPER: “This is one of the first years that our kids are in activities and sports. This is the first time I’ve ever been kind of a dad/fan going to watch your kids go do things. When I get to go watch my son play hockey or my girls play soccer or what have you, I let the coaches coach.  Just as Steve Yzerman or Jeff Vinik let me coach the Tampa Bay Lightning, I let these guys coach. They’re giving up their time and they’re doing a great job. For someone that doesn’t get to go to all of these events and watch what goes on, I just don’t feel it’s right to jump in. I think today, everybody I’ve watched has done such an awesome job. Aside from that, we started a staff golf league. So we play golf, 9 holes, twice a month. So that’s about the only kind of free time we have, but other than that when the season is going on there’s not a lot of time for anything. When the season’s not going on, I always make a goal that I have to read a minimum of three books in the summer because I don’t really get to do that that often during the regular season.”

METRO: What are some local favorite places to dine in the Tampa Bay area?

COOPER: “Well, I’ve always been really partial to Timpano because it was the first restaurant I ever came to in Tampa, almost 7 years ago now, when I was hired by the organization. I met a lot of people that night, when I first went to Timpano, and a few of the people are still working. So, that’s always been a favorite of mine. In the summer, we spend a lot of time out in the Anna Maria Island area so hitting the Beach Bistro or the Sandbar, something out there is something. During the season, we’re in South Tampa quite a bit, so we’ll hit the Hyde Park area. Sometimes, if we venture out of our district a little bit we might go to Eddie V’s or something like that.”

METRO: Tell us about Coop’s Catch for Kids Charity Fishing Tournament. Any other charities that you support?

COOPER: “Well this is obviously a big one for me, it’s the inaugural Coop’s Catch for Kids and it’s for pediatric cancer and when you’ve been affected by cancer in your life, I lost a father-in-law recently to cancer, and you see how tough it is on your family. More than ever, it was how tough, on the families as I watched the kids that were affected. I met numerous kids, one specifically named Tony Colton when I was first hired in Tampa and I went to the Sneaker Soirée event. He was honored there and we just struck up a friendship and the last three years he’s come to numerous games of ours and I’ve gone to visit him in the hospital and it’s just extremely touching and tough. I don’t know what other words to describe watching these kids battle this disease and how strong they are in their fight against the disease. When you get in the situation that I am in, especially when you have a camera in your face, or you have a little more of a platform than maybe some other people do, you want to help somehow. I feel I’m not obligated to do this, but it’s a duty to do this, and when you have a chance to raise money and help fight something that is really taking the lives of, and maybe not always taking the life, but affecting the lives of, young kids. The fastest we can put a stop to that, the better.”

METRO: The holiday season is approaching. Do you have any special family traditions or plans?

COOPER: “Well, one definite is our Christmas cards. That’s always a big family contention because the cards take a lot of thought; they’re not your regular written cards. We usually orchestrate some sort of picture. Over the years, they’ve become a bit of a fan favorite with our friends and family. Other than that, to be honest, it’s tough because in our job, we only get three days break and so usually Christmas Eve you’re just taking a breath from a grind of hockey for four months. Christmas Day you’re enjoying your time with your family. Then Boxing Day, which for us Canadians is the day after Christmas, your mind’s back on what you’re going to be doing on the 27th with your team. So, we don’t get a lot of time, but ultimately we have a lot of fun together and that’s our Christmas.”             M

 

 

 

 

 

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