Last month we caught up with Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper at the 2014 NHL Awards to discuss lessons learned at law school, life as a diehard Vancouver Canucks fan, and his uncanny likeness to Michael Keaton. These are his stories.
Q: What is it about your coaching style that has made this team better?
A: I get that question all the time. It's hard for me to answer. I don't want to even try. You'd have to ask the guys that. I'm sorry, it's a tough one for me to answer.
Q: You said earlier that, from a team perspective, you feel like you 'belong' in the NHL. At what point of the season did you feel that way?
A: I would say that the Stamkos injury was a defining moment for our team, myself included.
I'll be honest, I doubted what was going to happen after that. I think I put on a strong face, but really deep down inside you're doubting a little bit what can really happen. I think that was a defining moment for all of us. When we handled that, I felt that we could handle anything. And then eventually we had to handle more, but I think that was probably the point when I thought we belonged.
Q: Why did you decide to go to law school?
A: Because I was going to get into the agent business. That's basically what it was.
Q: How did law school prepare you for what you are doing now, if at all?
A: I've been asked that question a couple of times. The only way I can really probably define it ... a couple of reasons. Doing what I'm doing right now, you had to do that in law school quite a bit. You have to speak in front of people, you have to convince people. Especially when I address our team. It's no different than addressing a jury. You've got to convince them of your case. In a way, it's the same in hockey. You've got to convince your team to play for you, to play the style and to believe in it. A lot of what I've kind of crafted in my head and how I approach things, when I look back now, I did a lot of the same things in law school. So, I think that's probably the best correlation I can make.
Q: I understand your father is here with you in Las Vegas. What role has he played in terms of the way you are, the way you communicate and the way you coach?
A: My father's a good dude. Probably all the good things I do in my life, I probably pulled those from him. I don't know that's a tough question for me.
Q: Are there any current coaches that you consider role models?
A: I'll be honest, two guys that I got to know fairly well when I was coming up through the ranks that offered a little advice were probably Babs [Mike Babcock] and Q [Joel Quenneville]. Those two guys. I've just really respected what they've done. I got to know them for various reasons before I got to the NHL. And I took it upon myself when I was in need to call those guys and they were really helpful for me.
Q: Did you grow up a Vancouver Canucks fan?
A: I did.
Q: Are you still a Canucks fan?
A: I am. Western Conference, so why not. I'm just not a Canucks fan in June. No, it's hard not to be a fan. I'm from Prince George. I'll never forget 1982. I was in New York in 1994 and I remember it being heartbreaking because all my friends were New York Rangers fans. I've always cheered for the Canucks so it's hard for me not to.
Q: Does having a Vezina nominee on your team help with the Jack Adams nomination?
A: I think there's a direct correlation.
Q: Two out of the three Jack Adams nominees (Roy, Cooper) this year have Vezina nominees from their team (Varlamov, Bishop).
A: Yeah, there is a direct correlation. Goaltenders can make coaches look really good ... and really bad.
Q: Do you ever hear that you look like Michael Keaton?
A: You're probably like the 1000th person to say that ... "I'm Batman" [Michael Keaton impersonation]. Yeah, I was a big Courtney Cox fan too and I remembered that he dated her 20 years ago. No, I get that a lot ... the Michael Keaton.
Many thanks to Jon for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.