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Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning hire Cooper as head coach

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Published:   |   Updated: March 27, 2013 at 01:16 AM

The Lightning have promoted from within, hiring Jon Cooper as their new head coach.

Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman announced the move late Monday night, around 36 hours after letting go of Guy Boucher less than three years on the job.

Cooper, 45, will be introduced formally as the ninth head coach in team history during a press conference on Wednesday and make his debut behind the Tampa Bay bench on Friday against the New Jersey Devils. Assistant coaches Dan Lacroix, Steve Thomas and Martin Raymond will run the bench on Tuesday when the Lightning face Buffalo.

"We are very pleased to introduce Jon as our head coach today,'' Yzerman said in a release. "He has had success at every lever he has coach 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.''

Cooper is in his third year with the Lightning organization having served as the head coach for the team's minor league affiliate in the American Hockey League while running the annual summer prospect and rookie camp. Last season Cooper led the Norfolk Admirals, then the Lightning affiliate, on a record run winning the final 29 games of the regular season before going on to capture the Calder Cup championship during a four-game sweep against the Toronto Marlies.

"There is no other team in hockey that I would rather be coaching than the Tampa Bay Lightning,'' Cooper said in a release. "I look forward to getting to know the players and getting to work right away.''

This season, with the Tampa Bay farm team now in Syracuse, N.Y., Cooper has led the Crunch to a 39-18-8 record to lead the league with 86 points through Monday. The Crunch have accomplished this feat despite losing league MVP Cory Conacher as well as top players Tyler Johnson, who leads the AHL in goals, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Radko Gudas to the NHL in the second half of this season.

Current Lightning assistant coaches Thomas and Lacroix will remain on Cooper's staff while Raymond will be reassigned to Syracuse and help out Rob Zettler, who will take over Cooper's position with the Crunch after serving as an assistant coach this season.

Cooper is considered the rising young star among coaches currently not in the NHL. After last season's record run with Norfolk he had several interviews for NHL jobs, including as head coach positions in Washington and Edmonton as well as a handful of assistant positions.

It's been a long road to the NHL for Cooper, who served as a lawyer in the St. Louis area before starting to coach some high school hockey as a hobby.

In his first season as a head coach in 1999, he was named high school coach of the year by the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal after guiding Lansing Catholic to its first regional hockey title in 25 years. In 2002, he led the Metro Jets of the Central States Hockey League to a Tier III USA Hockey National Championship. He then spent five years as general manager and head coach of the St. Louis Bandits, posting a 223-93-17 record while winning Tier II championships in 2007 and '08.

Cooper then moved to the United States Hockey League's Green Bay Gamblers for the 2008-09 season and led the Gamblers to the biggest one-year improvement in USHL (Tier I) history, improving by 50 points to earn the league's best record. The following season, he led the Gamblers to a league championship, becoming the only individual to coach a championship-winning team at all three tiers of U.S. junior hockey.

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