If the NHL goes to the Olympics next year, it will be Jon Cooper behind the bench as Team Canada’s head coach. Hockey Canada announced the full staff today, naming Cooper head coach along with Barry Trotz, Bruce Cassidy and Peter DeBoer serving as assistants. The Tampa Bay Lightning coach released a statement:
It is an honour to be entrusted with leading Canada’s Men’s Olympic Team next year in Beijing, and to be able to carry on the rich tradition of hockey excellence that is associated with Hockey Canada. The opportunity to work with an excellent management group and an elite-level coaching staff of Barry, Bruce and Peter is a great privilege. I have many fond memories of the Olympics, from watching games as a young kid to thrilling gold medal victories, and I look forward to helping create lasting memories for Canadians across the country while our team competes for a gold medal.
Cooper, has been a head coach of Canada just once previously, leading the 2017 World Championship team to a silver medal. He was never part of the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence, which not only helps develop players but coaches as well. In fact, back in 2008 he served as an assistant with the U.S. squad at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, as he was serving as the GM and head coach of the St. Louis Bandits of the NAHL at the time. Cooper’s path to the NHL is certainly not the one taken by most Canadian head coaches, but it’s hard to argue with the results. He’s won the Stanley Cup two years in a row with the Tampa Bay Lightning and holds an all-time winning percentage of .647 in the regular season.
The staff Cooper will have is incredible and has its own Stanley Cup ring to boast. Trotz won it all in 2018 with the Washington Capitals, and has twice taken home the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year. Cassidy has his own Jack Adams, along with a .677 winning percentage since taking over the Bruins, and DeBoer has been absolutely dominant since joining the Vegas Golden Knights. All four coaches have at least made it to the Stanley Cup Final, and will now try to take Canada to Olympic gold.
It is important to note that this does not mean the league is going for certain. The hope is still that the NHL, IIHF and IOC can reach an agreement, but things are not official yet. If the NHL does not participate, the coaching staff will have to be reworked.