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WUSF News Staff
Mon March 25, 2013
Lightning Hire Jon Cooper
The Tampa Bay Lightning have named Jon Cooper as the eighth head coach in team history, picking a man familiar to many of the players who will suit up for him.
Cooper takes over the job opened up by Sunday's firing of Guy Boucher. For the past three seasons, Cooper coached the Lightning's top minor league affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, from 2010-2012 and this season was with the Syracuse Crunch.
The 45-year-old posted a 132-62-26 (.661) record in the AHL, leading the Admirals to a franchise record 55 wins last season, along with the franchise's first Calder Cup. The Admirals also won 28 consecutive games last season, with Cooper being named coach of the year.
Cooper led this season's Crunch team to a league-leading record of 39-18-8, despite 10 players from that team being promoted to the Lightning.
"We are very pleased to introduce Jon as our head coach today," General Manager Steve Yzerman said in a Lightning press release. "He has had success at every level he has coached and is extremely familiar with our organization, as well as our players. He has a tremendous record at all levels and we feel he is ready to make the move to the NHL."
"There is no other team in hockey that I would rather be coaching than the Tampa Bay Lightning," said Cooper. "It's quite a tribute to Steve Yzerman and (Lightning owner) Jeff Vinik and the organization they are building that are proud to promote from within. I look forward to getting to know the players and getting to work right away."
Cooper's first game as Lightning head coach will be Friday at home against the New Jersey Devils. Assistant coaches Dan Lacroix and Steve Thomas will again serve as interim coaches tomorrow night when the Lightning host the Buffalo Sabres.
Boucher was fired Sunday night after just over three years as Lightning head coach. He had a 84-62-19 record, but this season's team slumped to 13-17-1 after a 6-1-0 start.
Before joining the AHL, Cooper won a Clark Cup, two General Manager of the Year awards and one Coach of the Year award during two seasons (2008-2010) with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL. He also led the St. Louis Bandits to two Robertson Cup titles in two seasons (2006-2008) in the NAHL.
Cooper was born in Prince George, British Columbia, and played high school at Notre Dame in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. He then played one season of hockey and four seasons of lacrosse at Hofstra University. He also earned a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., but closed his practice in 2003 to pursue a career in coaching.