British Columbia

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper aims for B.C. hockey history

The Tampa Bay Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup Finals is especially thrilling for one B.C. family.

Jon Cooper looking to become first B.C.-born coach to win the Stanley Cup

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper works with Victor Hedman, Cory Conacher, Richard Panik during an NHL hockey game in Tampa, Florida. (The Associated Press)

The Tampa Bay Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup Finals is especially thrilling for one B.C. family.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper was born and raised in Prince George, and it's still home to his parents Bob and Christine.

On Friday, the Lightning beat the the New York Rangers in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Championship, landing them a berth in the final round. 

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper gets fired up during an NHL game in Pittsburgh on Friday, Jan. 2, 2015. (The Associated Press)

"The excitement level here is really incredible, everybody's really excited," says Christine Cooper from the family's home in Prince George.

47-year old Jon Cooper has only been an NHL coach for about 2 years, joining Tampa Bay in 2013. 

Cooper is considered part of a new wave of coaches, and took a long path to reach his hockey dream.

He grew up playing hockey and lacrosse in Prince George, but he moved to Wilcox, Saskatchewan when he was 14 to play high school hockey for the Notre Dame Hounds.

Cooper eventually moved to the U.S. where he got a degree and became a lawyer.

But he didn't pick up coaching until a judge he knew asked Cooper to go behind the bench of his son's hockey team. 

A decade and a half later, with many junior and minor league championships behind him, Cooper is one of the most highly regarded coaches in the NHL.

B.C.-born head coach Jon Cooper talks with Tampa Bay Lightning players during a timeout in the second period of an NHL hockey game on Feb. 10, 2015, in Nashville, Tennessee. (AP/Mark Humphrey)

Last year he was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, the league's highest honour for a coach.

"It's just a wonderful thing for a kid from Prince George, that's pretty incredible," his mother says.

Cooper's parents are planning to travel from B.C. to either Anaheim or Chicago to watch the Lightning through the finals.

And if Tampa Bay manages to win it all, Cooper would become the first B.C.-born head coach to hoist the Stanley Cup.

"Jon's Dad is out golfing because he just can't hang around anymore," said Christine Cooper. 

"I know all my friends are glued to the TV and a lot of them can hardly watch the whole thing, we're all so hyped up!"


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