With the Lightning’s 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs Thursday night, head coach Jon Cooper became the fastest coach in NHL history to 400 career wins.
Cooper, who became Lightning head coach in March 2013, needed just 659 games to reach 400 wins. Bruce Boudreau, the previous fastest, needed 663 games to attain the milestone. Cooper, who is the league’s longest-tenured coach, became the 39th in league history to reach the mark.
Cooper said he didn’t know about the record-setting win until late in the game when veteran forwards Pat Maroon and Corey Perry ribbed him about it.
“I haven’t had a ton of time to digest that other than the fact that I think I’m obviously really proud to have done it with one team,” Cooper said.
Cooper said he doesn’t reach the milestone without Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, former Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman and Yzerman’s successor, Julien BriseBois.
“We were kind of all bonded together, and I have to thank Jeff, Steve and Julien and fabulous assistant coaches that make somebody like me look good in a situation like this,” Cooper said. “And then a whole bunch of a hell of hockey players, because in the end they’re the guys that get you the wins.
“So a lot of people to thank for that. Hopefully it’s not stopping here, but pretty humbling moment to be honest, but pretty cool.”
After the game, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos skated to the officials table and asked for two game pucks, one for Cooper and one for assistant athletic trainer Mike Poirier, who reached his 1,500th NHL game.
Cooper has gone from a first-time NHL head coach when he was promoted from AHL Syracuse to a back-to-back Stanley Cup champion. He also will serve as the Canadian national team’s coach in the upcoming Winter Olympics in February. A former lawyer who worked his way up the coaching ranks, Cooper won championships at the junior level in the NAHL, USHL and with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate when it was in Norfolk, Va.
Cooper owned a .650 career point percentage entering Thursday’s game. Among NHL coaches with at least 400 wins, only Scotty Bowman owns a higher point percentage.
“It’s pretty amazing to have that accomplishment,” Stamkos said. “He’s come into the league and he’s picked up where he’s left off from every other coaching job he’s had, and that success, it follows him and it follows the teams that he coaches.
“It’s been, I think if you’d asked him, a pretty amazing ride so far in the NHL capped off by the last two years. It’s been fun to be a part of all those and I think he’s got a lot more wins to come, but I know he can definitely cherish that. That’s pretty pretty amazing to be the quickest.”
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