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Cup winning coach started in Lansing

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 6:37 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The Detroit Red Wings open their National Hockey League season tonight at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have won two Stanley Cups under the direction of Coach Jon Cooper, who cut his coaching teeth right here in Lansing.

Cooper was in Lansing in the late 1990′s pursuing a law degree at Cooley Law school. A close friend and old hockey buddy of his was judge Tom Brennan Jr., who asked Cooper to coach the Lansing Catholic Central High School hockey team.

“Actually, it’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I stuck with coaching,” Cooper said. “We had a blast and, you know, I thank judge brennan for that as well for getting be involved.”

Cooper was not in Lansing for very long but his ties there are significant. He says, had he not had that experience coaching Lansing Catholic Central for one season, he may not be where he is today.

“With that team it wasn’t so much the wins and losses, it was how much fun we had,” Cooper said. “And, we ended up winning the regional championship for the state (which they hadn’t won in 25 years) but it was more than that… I think that’s what made that team special.”

21 years and two Stanley Cups later, Cooper has emerged as one of the top coaches in the entire National Hockey League.

“Life takes you in different directions… You know, I went to law school and I thought I was going to get into the agent business and on that side of things, and coaching came into my life,” Cooper recalled. “My mom always said I was going to be a teacher... she was right. I’ve got lots of people in Lansing-- Jill Kopech, my former partner in crime when I was practicing law-- she’s still there and her family and I still keep in touch with the judge [Brennan] and some of the guys off the legal eagles, and the hockey team I played for there. So, it was a great life experience for me and I got a bunch of great friends to show for it.”

They say you should never forget where you came from, and Jon Cooper certainly hasn’t forgotten Lansing.

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