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Hofstra alum Jon Cooper, coach of Lightning, could be Hall of Famer following second Stanley Cup

Head coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay

Head coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning hoists the Stanley Cup after the 1-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Five to win the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on July 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.  Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

Hofstra could eventually have a link to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Alum Jon Cooper coached the Lightning to their second straight Stanley Cup on Wednesday night as they clinched with a 1-0 win over the Canadiens in Game 5 in Tampa, Florida. They beat the Islanders in the NHL semifinals both years.

"To be able to do this two years in a row, we’ve been knocking at the door for so many years," said Cooper, who has led the Lightning to three Cup Finals and five NHL semifinals since being named coach on March 25, 2013. "It cements this group."

It may have also cemented Cooper — who graduated Hofstra in 1989 after playing for the lacrosse team for four seasons and the club hockey team for one — as a future Hall of Famer.

"I’d be hard pressed to say he isn’t already a Hall of Famer," NBC Sports analyst Ed Olczyk said.

The Lightning became just the sixth team to win at least two straight Cups since the NHL expanded past its Original Six in 1967.

The first four coaches to do so — the Flyers’ Fred Shero, the Canadiens’ Scotty Bowman, the Islanders’ Al Arbour and the Oilers’ Glen Sather — are all in the Hall of Fame. Mike Sullivan is still coaching the Penguins.

"It’s an interesting debate because, despite all the success, he’s never won the Jack Adams Trophy [as coach of the year] and has only been a finalist twice," said Lightning Insider’s Erik Erlendsson, who has covered the team for two decades. "But the track record puts him on a path as one of the greatest coaches of his generation with three Cup appearances in six years, two titles and a Presidents’ Trophy when his team tied an NHL record for wins."

But Cooper’s success is not limited to the NHL, which is why Olczyk believes his legacy is already strong enough.

Cooper, who turns 54 next month, has also guided Norfolk to the AHL championship in 2012 and he is the only coach to win national titles in all three U.S. junior hockey tiers, starting in 2002.

"The last time I checked, the Hall of Fame was not just the NHL," Olczyk said. "The way he’s worked himself up has been pretty impressive. People seem to look at the highest level all the time. But I think the body of work speaks for itself and there’s still a lot of chapters to be written."

Cooper may be hard-pressed to coach a three-peat given the Lightning’s tight salary-cap situation. They have just $3.5 million of room — the least in the league — under the flat $81.5 million cap, guaranteeing changes to this group. Nikita Kucherov ($9.5 million) was on long-term injured reserve this regular season.

"We knew going forward with the salary cap world this might be the last game this particular group plays together," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said after Game 5. "I can’t say how much that motivated us. No matter what happens from here on out, this group is going to be etched in history forever."

New York Sports