TAMPA — Many hockey players and coaches have pre-game rituals or good-luck charms they refuse to let go of because they believe they’re tied into their success.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper has one of each.
Prior to the start of every game, Cooper pulls a wrapped piece of Dubble Bubble brand bubble gum out of his pocket, unwraps it and pops it into his mouth, where it stays until the game is over.
But not just any old type of Dubble Bubble gum. Since one of his first days behind a bench, only the rare rectangular version that comes with a comic will do.
“When I first started coaching I wanted to chew gum and that’s what I had, and so I opened it up and, fortunately or unfortunately, we won,” Cooper said. “So I’ve kept doing it ever since.
“I read the joke right after the (national) anthem, which gives me a little bit of levity right before the game starts. And it never comes out until after the game. That’s why, some of those long overtime games, my jaw is really (hurting) after those sometimes. I get rid of it as soon as I walk in the coach’s office.’’
A sore jaw and the fading flavor of the gum aren’t the only problems associated with the ritual. Just finding Dubble Bubble gum with a joke inside has proven to be a challenge for Cooper, too.
“I have to get it Cracker Barrel,’’ Cooper said. “That’s the only place I can find it.’’
Did you know?
During the Eastern Conference finals series against the Rangers, the Lightning allowed 17 goals during the three games at Amalie Arena, but only four goals in the four games played at Madison Square Garden.
Stat of the day
Of 83 games during the Stanley Cup playoffs, 50 were tied or within one goal entering the final five minutes of regulation.
Quote of the day
“We really didn’t set a time line on it. I didn’t want to put myself in that position. We just wanted to go through the process and hope that we’d get there sooner rather than later.’’
— Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, on reaching the Stanley Cup Final