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Before coaching the Lightning, Jon Cooper cut his teeth in juniors

04/11/2013, 1:45pm MDT
By Greg Auman

TAMPA — Think of them as non-traditional letters of recommendation.
Long before his hiring on March 25 as an NHL head coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jon Cooper put in his time in the AHL, and before that, the CSHL, NAHL and USHL. The one letter that never changed? The Ws he consistently put together through humble but wildly successful years in junior hockey, setting the foundation for his current challenge at pro hockey’s highest level.
“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned, coming up the ranks, is not to take anything for granted,” said Cooper, 45, after a morning practice just weeks into his new job. “You started out coaching a high school team, riding a school bus to games. My first junior team, in Texarkana, I pulled a Suburban with all our equipment 120 miles one way just to practice in Little Rock. One way.”
Nearby rinks and reasonable travel are easier to come by in the NHL, and Cooper can appreciate his new amenities. He is the only coach to win titles at all three tiers of American junior hockey — with the Metro Jets, the St. Louis Bandits and the Green Bay Gamblers. His coaching career started in near-anonymity, but more importantly, with hard work and a constant eye on improvement.
“Myself and my staff, we’d flood the rink, paint the rink, my wife would do it. We’d be up ‘til 4 or 6 in the morning, just getting the rink ready,” he said. “My first three or four years of my career, I never got paid. You do it for the love of the game, the passion for the game. The higher you go, the buildings get nicer. … You could pretty much fit the hotel you were staying in [in juniors] in the room I actually stay in now. I laugh about that.”
When Cooper wasn’t practicing his team, he practiced as a defense attorney until as recently as 2003, politely refusing the gas money his first hockey owners wanted to give him.
Junior hockey is a small world, so Cooper is constantly running into familiar faces from his stops along the coaching ladder. In a recent game against Ottawa, he saw Erik Condra, who played for him in Midgets with Honeybaked Hockey in Detroit and in juniors in Texarkana. Other NHL teams will bring other players he knew as teenagers who have made the same rise he’s made.
Cooper’s best memories from junior hockey are the investments he and his coaches and players made in a team, literally building a program from scratch and eventually leaving it as a perennial champion.
“That’s probably the most gratifying, the players you’ve kept in touch with all the years,” he said. “You think about a lot of the trials and tribulations you have, and it makes you stronger. It makes you appreciate what you have now. I attribute a lot of the successes I’ve had to the struggles I had when you start out.”
After Cooper was hired by the Lightning, he was curious what had gotten him in the door — about what had given him the chance to get the job with a strong interview.
Tampa Bay’s leadership pointed to two things: his uncanny success at all levels, but also his international experience. Cooper was a head coach for USA Hockey with the Under-17 team at the Five Nations tournament in Slovakia and Czech Republic and then served as an assistant with U-18s. He also helped coach USA Hockey’s InLine team to a title under Darren Turcotte in Budapest.
“It was awesome. An unreal experience,” said of his time in Hungary, not realizing then that his experience there would help him land the biggest job a hockey coach can aspire to.
“And if it wasn’t for USA Hockey having faith in me to coach some of their international teams, I’m not sure I would even got through the door here.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Update on 2015-16 USA Hockey Officiating Registration

07/08/2015, 5:15pm MDT
By David LaBuda, USA Hockey National Referee-in-Chief

District Referees-in-Chief implement changes to registration procedures

As we enter the 2015-16 registration season for officials, I want to give an update of what changes to expect this season.

The Officials Section has been busy since the 2015 Winter Meeting, working on implementing the registration changes that were discussed and voted on by the district referees-in-chief, along with refining the testing and online seminar programs.

For 2015-16, there will be an informational video available before an official registers with USA Hockey outlining the requirements and commitment that an individual will need to fulfill in order to complete their registration.


Next, and a very important change, starting with this season, in order to register for a seminar, an official will have to first register as an official (online) with USA Hockey in order to gain access to the online program to register for a seminar.

This change was due to a number of individuals who would never register as an official with USA Hockey and then ‘no show’ to the seminar that they registered for, which frequently led to other registered officials being denied attendance at that seminar because the seating capacity had already been reached.

This change will provide more incentive for every individual who registers as an official -- and registers for a seminar -- to attend that seminar and complete the registration requirements.

The open-book testing process has also been modified for the coming season. What hasn’t changed is that a Level 1 official will still have to answer the first 50 questions, while Level 2, 3 & 4 officials will have to answer 100 questions. However, the passing score for a Level 2 official has been modified to 80 from 85. All other passing scores remain the same as last year. Those minimum passing scores are 35 for a Level 1 official and 90 for Levels 3 and 4.

While an official is taking the open-book exam, there will be immediate feedback provided after each answer is submitted. If the question was answered incorrectly, the rule reference for that missed question will be given with the appropriate rule book language.

After completing all of the required questions, a summary will be sent of all incorrect responses with their rule references. If a passing score is obtained, then the open-book exam requirement will be complete.

If the result is a failing score, after the seven-day waiting period has passed, the official will only have to retake those questions that were incorrectly answered on their first open-book exam. The retake questions will be based on the same rule reference as the originally missed questions, but will cover a different aspect of the rule.

Once all of the retake questions are answered, the number of correctly answered retake questions will be added to the original test score to hopefully obtain a passing grade. As a reminder, there is no third attempt to pass the open-book exam.

During the winter meeting, the Officials Section spent considerable time discussing seminar program feedback, and in particular, the online modules. All feedback was taken seriously and an action plan was discussed and adopted.

Two work groups were established to address the new classroom curriculums and to improve the online video modules. Both were comprised of grassroots members who could bring a grassroots perspective to their work. Both groups have completed their work and their recommendations have been adopted. The new shortened classroom curriculums have been distributed for application to this coming seminar season and the online modules are being re-engineered with improved formatting, better sequencing, animation replacing some video clips and reduction of music and voice-overs to allow the viewer to better focus on the presented material.

We’ve also evaluated the number of required modules for each level, and based on the user analytics that the first years’ experience produced, we have reduced the number of required modules in some cases.

Lastly, as a reminder, once an official begins their first online module, they will need to complete all of their online module training within a specified time period. The online module completion time periods are 60 days for Level 1 registered officials and 45 days for Levels 2, 3 and 4. If all of the required and elective modules are not completed within the specified time frame, the official will have to restart all of the module training from the beginning. This requirement was waived during last year’s registration season due to the delayed rollout of the online module program, but it’s back in place this year.

This completion requirement was put in place by the District RICs to encourage all officials to complete their registration as early as possible and to provide continuity in the overall seminar education process.

As a reminder, to complete an official’s registration an applicant must:

  • Register online with USA Hockey
  • Register and attend a classroom seminar (reduced attendance times depending on registration level)
  • Complete the required and elective online training modules within the required time frame
  • Pass the open-book exam at their registration level
  • Pass the closed-book exam (no closed-book exam at Level 1) for their registration level
  • Complete their online USA Hockey SafeSport training at the end of every two-year cycle


Work will continue on improving our educational programs, and as always, we will continue actively listening to your constructive feedback. Without your involvement and support as a community, we cannot continue moving forward.  Acknowledging that improvements were needed was only one step in the process.  Implementing those changes in a way that meets the needs of our officiating community is the next step and we’re excited to be taking that step.

Have a great 2015-16 season and as always, skate hard and have fun when you’re on the ice.

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