Jon Cooper Photo Credit: Bally Sports Sun: Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper chose an unusual situation Thursday to share a touching story about the late NHL announcer Bob Cole.

Cole, who called Hockey Night In Canada games on radio and TV for five decades, died Wednesday at age 90. The NHL world has been paying tribute to him, and Cooper did that during his media session after the Lightning’s 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

The coach was clearly in a down mood, as the loss dropped the Lightning to a 3-0 deficit to the Panthers in their opening-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series. Still, after breaking down what went wrong in the loss, he concluded by sharing a story about Cole.

“Before I go … and I was hoping this would be a little bit better of a situation, because we just lost a game in the playoffs,” Cooper began, “but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of Bob Cole. I know it has nothing to do with this game, but it kind of does, because I’m probably not coaching in this league if it wasn’t growing up and having a passion for this game because of the voice of that man.”

Cooper, 56, then recalled his youth hockey days growing up in British Columbia, with Cole fueling his dreams.

“I was a little kid, and I used to go down and play hockey by myself, and it was all because of the emotion Bob Cole brought to this game,” Cooper said. “He is the Wayne Gretzky of announcers. My passion for this game is built on what Bob Cole said.

“Every night watching Hockey Night in Canada, turn that thing on at 5 o’clock just to hear his voice.”

Cooper, now the longest-tenured NHL head coach and a two-time Stanley Cup champion, finally met Cole in 2018.

“I’m not starstruck that often, but I was starstruck when he came down,” Cooper said. “He was such a wonderful man and the sacred grounds of the Bell Centre in Montreal after a pregame skate, it was just the two of us, and he took me upstairs in the gondola in Montreal … and I got to put a headset on where he called games.”

At that point, Cole turned and noticed that the video board behind him displayed an image of his meeting that day with Cole.

“Yeah, that was it,” he said. “That was one of the coolest moments ever in my life, to stand there with him. So to all his friends and family and to everybody that grows up loving this game, I’m going to miss that man, cause he was a superstar in this sport.”

[Bally Sports Sun: Lightning;

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.