From Hofstra lacrosse to a Stanley Cup title, Jon Cooper represented Long Island on hockey’s biggest stage

Robert Pelaez
Hofstra alum Jon Cooper won his first Stanley Cup title with the Tampa Bay Lightning in September. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the New York Islanders’ loss in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Long Island was well-represented in the Stanley Cup Final by Tampa Bay Lightning head coach and Hofstra University alum Jon Cooper.

Cooper, whose Lightning team defeated the Islanders 4-2 in a best-of-seven series, graduated from the Hempstead-based college in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.  

Cooper led the Lightning to a 43-win season this year en route to the club’s second Stanley Cup victory in franchise history by defeating the Dallas Stars in six games.  What’s even more astonishing is that the 43 wins were the team’s second-lowest win total in a season since Cooper took control of the team seven years ago.

The Hofstra alum touted the play of his team in the postgame interview after the Lightning won the cup a year removed from winning 62 games and being swept in the first round of the playoffs.

“I’m the one up here in front of the microphone for the last 511 days, again who’s counting, but the bottom line is we don’t get this done without this group right here,” Cooper said. “You need a team to do it … we basically went from the outhouse to the penthouse.”

This year was also Cooper’s second Stanley Cup Final appearance as head coach of the Lightning after losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in 2015.

“The fear of losing almost becomes greater than the feeling of winning,” Cooper said. “To come back year after year after year and take our swings and take our licks and suddenly be talked about as the kids that were going to be here every year, and now we were talked about as the team that couldn’t get it done, well you know what, we got it done and it wasn’t without failures along the way.”

The British Columbia native scored goals of his own for the then-Flying Dutchmen of Hofstra on grass rather than ice for the men’s lacrosse team.

During his four-year letterman tenure for the team, Cooper racked up 74 goals and 25 assists, finishing fifth in all-time goals scored, and ninth in all-time points, 99, in the university’s history.  Cooper was also a member of the 1988 and 1989 East Coast Conference championship teams.

Despite coaching one of the best teams in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference over the past seven years, Cooper has acknowledged some of his alma mater’s athletic feats, such as when the Hofstra men’s basketball team had the nation’s longest active winning streak in 2019.

“Hey, I graduated there. I’m a proud alum. I do have a lot of things on my mind, but I do follow,” Cooper told Newsday in January 2019.

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