USA Hockey Magazine

October 2013

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Road Jon Cooper's Path To The NHL Part Of An Unconventional Journey | By Ryan Satkowiak J on Cooper's rise up the NHL coaching ranks has been nothing if not unconventional. Hockey wasn't his best sport growing up — that was lacrosse, which he played collegiately at Hofstra University. And he didn't get his start in coaching until later in life, well after his playing days were over. He first worked on Wall Street, then went to law school and became a defense attorney. When he eventually did take his place behind the bench, it wasn't with a pro or even a Junior team. It was with a struggling high school squad. Even so, this unconventional road would eventually lead Cooper to the pinnacle of the profession when he was named the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 25. But while he's made the big time, Cooper doesn't afford himself the time to reflect back on how far he's come. There will be plenty of time for that somewhere down the line. "I don't look back on my career right 28 October. 2013 now and say, 'look at the career I've had,' because I don't think my career is anywhere near over," he said. "I feel like there's a lot of unfinished business ahead." Still, it's hard not to admire how far he's come from his days as a high school hockey player growing up in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. "Ultimately I ended up being a little better of a lacrosse player than I was a hockey player," said Cooper who was born in British Columbia to an American mother and a Canadian father. That dual citizenship would eventually lead him to USA Hockey, where he has coached at Player Development Camps and more recently at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. "Any time you get to come in and work with the best players of their age group, you get to help evaluate these players. It's an honor because these are the guys who are going to represent your country," said Cooper, who also spoke at the 2012 National Hockey Coaches Symposium in Washington, D.C. "I feel like it's my obligation to come help USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM out because of how good USA Hockey has been to me." Following college, his path began to stray away from the ice when he took a job with Prudential Securities, the financial services arm of Prudential Financial that would eventually merge with Wachovia in 2003. However, athletics kept beckoning to him. Cooper wanted to get involved in the sports agency business, so he left his job on Wall Street and enrolled in Thomas Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich. At law school, he got involved with hockey again through the "Legal Eagles," an adult Rec team in the Lansing area that was made up of members of the law community. "They'd get wind of when guys with hockey backgrounds come to town," Cooper said. "I was playing hockey all the time, and it really helped me a lot because when I got out of law school, it got me jobs." One of the players he would meet on that team forever altered the course of his career. Thomas Brennan, Jr., a District Court judge and a member of the Legal Eagles, took an immediate interest in the young hockey-playing lawyer. "His personality is immediately attractive. You can't help but be drawn to the guy," Brennan recalled. "Most of the guys on the Photos By Getty Images; Nancy Battaglia

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