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Once a fan, Cooper now coaching against Islanders

Lightning coach has fond memories of attending games at Nassau Coliseum

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper spent many days during the mid-to-late 1980s watching the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum while he was an undergraduate student at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

Cooper played lacrosse at Hofstra and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration, but when he wasn't tied up with sports or academics, he was watching the Islanders.

The Lightning play the Islanders in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"There was nothing like the Nassau Coliseum," Cooper said. "That was a one-of-a-kind arena. We used to go for playoff games."

Cooper missed the Islanders' run of four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-83 but had the opportunity to watch many of the great players from that era on Long Island, including forwards Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier and defenseman Denis Potvin.

"I came in after their Cup runs, but they were still at the top of the League and had a lot of their [top] players," Cooper said. "They were going through a little bit of transition. [It's] a phenomenally passionate fan base. It was a lot of fun going to those games, I used to go to them all the time."

Cooper will not have the opportunity to coach a playoff game at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders left the arena after the 2014-15 season and moved to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

"It's sad to see they're not there anymore," Cooper said. "But I have really fond memories of watching games there during college."

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