Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper joined TSN’s James Duthie to discuss preparing for the season if and when it resumes, the possibility of playing in empty arenas, and more.
On preparing for a playoffs that might not happen:
It’s been difficult because there are so many unknowns to what is going forward. We can sit here and work, work, work (but) we don’t know what is ahead of us. There has been some promising news of late with what’s come out here at least in the United States and listening to President Trump, and all through the world, but there are a lot of people still pumping the brakes, saying there’s a long way to go. But our job as professionals is to make sure we’re ready and we’re prepared.
To be honest it’s kind of been the fun part about what’s gone on here of late, actually getting on the Zoom chats and being able to go with the staff and go through scenarios. For instance, what if we come back in small groups, how are we going to handle that? … If a training camp really is going to be three or four weeks, it’s a different mentality coming to this training camp as opposed to a regular season training camp because players haven’t skated.
On the season so far and how disappointing no playoffs would be after last year’s first round exit:
The story is written that way, there’s no question. But it was what we did throughout this year that I think is getting lost in where we are. If I remember, 30 games in, we were like 17-13 and not an ideal spot (in the standings). I think we were sixth in our division.
We were really working on the mental aspect of our game. And we know we had the talent but it was, ‘stop chasing last year’, turning the page on that and focusing on ‘why did last year happen?’ … We tried to look into ourselves and change some things that probably needed changing in our mental approach to the game and it took us a little bit of time but when it did click, great things were happening.
On playing in empty arenas:
We are in the entertainment business and playing in front of fans, there’s a difference. Even when you go to NHL buildings that don’t have too many fans, you can tell there’s a major difference in the game. And that’s rare, but the guys love to play in front of fans and I think that would be a real difficult hurdle to get over, to play in front of empty buildings.
"But I do think sports is therapeutic. And in times like this, you don’t realize how much you miss it … To have sports and teams and cities be able to gravitate and to cheer for something and something that gives you pride, I think TV ratings will never be higher and so hopefully that will make up for no fans in the seats.
On Steven Stamkos’ recovery from surgery on a core muscle injury:
We had a call with our whole staff and we talked about that. If everything started up today, or let’s just say in May, we’d have a full roster so that was pretty exciting to hear.