NAHL coach alum Cooper signs extension with Tampa Bay
The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed head coach and NAHL alum Jon Cooper to a three-year contract extension through the 2024-25 season, vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois announced.
"Unequivocally, Coop is the best person for the job," said BriseBois. "He is a great leader, spokesperson and ambassador for our organization. We are lucky to have him as our head coach and I very much look forward to our continued partnership."
"It has been a tremendous honor to be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the past eight-plus seasons and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to build on what we have here," Cooper said. "My family and I love the organization and being a part of the Tampa Bay community, it is our home. I'd like to extend a sincere thank you to Mr. Vinik, Julien, Steve Griggs, the rest of the coaching staff and all the players for making this one of the best jobs in the NHL."
Cooper began his NAHL coaching career with the Texarkana Bandits in the 2003-04 season. He coached in the NAHL a total of five seasons with Texarkana and St. Louis, totaling 290 regular season games, which is second only to his time served coaching in the NHL. In 2004-05 and again in 2007-08, he was honored as the NAHL Coach of the Year. Cooper led the Bandits to back-to-back Robertson Cup Championships in 2007 and again in 2008.
Cooper was named the ninth head coach in Lightning franchise history on March 25, 2013 and is now the NHL's longest tenured bench boss. He made his NHL coaching debut at AMALIE Arena on March 29, 2013 in a 5-4 shootout victory against the New Jersey Devils. In a little more than eight seasons as the Lightning's coach, Cooper has amassed a 383-197-53 record with his .647 points percentage the highest in the history of the organization. It also trails only Scotty Bowman (.657 in 2,141 games) for the second highest in NHL history among coaches with a minimum of 500 games coached, all while guiding the Bolts to back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 2020 and 2021. He's also led the Lightning to five Eastern Conference Final/Stanley Cup Semifinal appearances over the past seven seasons, which also included a trip to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. On March 21, 2019, Cooper became the 49th head coach in NHL history to reach the 300-win milestone, joining Bruce Boudreau as the second head coach to have at least 300 career wins through 500 regular season games. In 2014 and 2019, he was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given annually to the NHL's top coach. Cooper joined the Lightning after spending three seasons behind the bench of Tampa Bay's top minor league affiliates, the Norfolk Admirals (2010-12) and the Syracuse Crunch (2012-13), compiling a 133-62-26 (.661) record in 221 AHL games. He will also serve as the head coach for Team Canada at the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, after previously serving his country in the same position at the 2017 IIHF World Championships.
During the shortened 2021 season Cooper guided the Bolts to their second-consecutive Stanley Cup Championship after Tampa Bay defeated Montreal four games to one in the Cup Final, finishing off the Canadiens on home ice by a 1-0 score in a Game 5 shutout at AMALIE Arena on July 7, 2021. The Lightning blanked their opponent in all four series-clinching wins, an NHL record, and never lost back-to-back games during their playoff run.
The Prince George, British Columbia native led the Bolts to the franchise's second Stanley Cup Championship in 2020, defeating the Dallas Stars four games to two in Edmonton, Alberta. After going 43-21-6 during the regular season which was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cooper and the Bolts didn't need more than six games in any of their four rounds to capture the Stanley Cup.
During the eight full seasons with Cooper behind the bench (2013-21), the Lightning have enjoyed consistent success on the ice. Tampa Bay's 383 regular season wins since Cooper's hiring are the most in the entire NHL during that span. The Lightning have also been the league's best offensive team during that time, ranking first in the NHL with 2,019 goals.
Cooper guided the Lightning to the finest regular season in franchise history and one of the finest ever in the NHL in 2018-19, culminating in the franchise's first-ever Presidents' Trophy after finishing 21 points better than second place Boston and Calgary in the final regular season standings. Tampa Bay tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the NHL record for most victories in a single season after picking up win No. 62 in the final regular season game at Boston. The Lightning's 128 points were the fourth most in NHL history. The Bolts set franchise records for wins, points, home wins (tied with 2014-15), home points, road wins, road points, ROW, goals, goals per game, power-play percentage and longest win streak, among many others, in 2018-19. Also with Cooper behind the bench, Nikita Kucherov captured the Art Ross Trophy (NHL scoring champion), Hart Memorial Trophy (NHL MVP as voted by the PHWA) and Ted Lindsay Award (NHL MVP as voted by the NHLPA) and Andrei Vasilevskiy was awarded the Vezina Trophy (NHL top goaltender), the first such award given to a Lightning player, in 2018-19. Cooper earned his 100th career NHL victory on April 11, 2015, making him the fifth-fastest coach among those who debuted in the league since 2000 to reach that mark.
Prior to being named the bench boss of the Lightning, Cooper was awarded the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL's top coach in 2012 after guiding the Admirals to the Calder Cup Championship. In two years in Norfolk, he led the Admirals to a 94-44-18 regular season record and a 17-7 mark in the playoffs. Along the way, Cooper and his team set a North American professional sports record, winning a remarkable 28 consecutive games. That season Norfolk earned the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL's regular season points champion, while also capturing the league's East Division title.
Cooper is active with a number of charitable organizations and causes. Among others, he continually participates in the battle against pediatric cancer and holds an annual event called Coop's Catch for Kids, a charity fishing derby which benefits local childhood cancer research and care organizations.
Earlier this season, he partnered with the NAHL to announce the creation and implementation of the Kim Cannon Internship, intended for a recent college graduate interested in pursuing a career in sports.