It’s a little slow this time of year and with it comes a chance to catch up with a few people.
Here’s Part I of an interview I did with Force defenseman Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), who is undergoing what might be one of the most important months of his life.
Cooper was at the NHL Combine in Toronto where he was poked and prodded for the upcoming NHL Draft, which is next Friday in Pittsburgh, Pa. Here’s what Cooper had to say about his time at the combine.
Q: What was the NHL Combine like in terms of the interviews and the physical workouts?
Cooper: You know the interviews were a little nerve-racking. Not like talking to scouts one-on-one. Tampa had two guys. Boston and New Jersey had 10 guys in there. You have to keep going. One question can screw you up. I didn’t have any weird questions. I had some relax conversations. Chicago was the most relaxed interview and it was a nice surprise from the other ones. I am a big question mark and I know teams don’t want to waste time with silly questions. They were pretty straight forward. It was nerve-racking because you don’t want to say anything stupid and show nervousness. I texted (Force assistant Byron Pool) and he said, ‘Just be confident. That’s one of your biggest assets.’ That’s reassured me.”
Q: How did you think you did during the physical portion of the combine?
Cooper: Pretty good. I think I surprised guys for how big I am. Held my own for bench and push ups and I knew I wasn’t going to win the wingspan (Cooper is 5-9). Phil worked me and (forward Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth)) twice a week but it was not to stay in shape. We were missing key components and we did workouts to get you get ready for testing. Not the way you want to work out to get ready for the season. Did some bike, sit ups, bench explosive stuff with. Iafallo has Buffalo’s camp to go to. I was confident going into push ups and bench. I was disappointed in bench. You don’t want to say take it easy on bench or take it easy on push ups. You want to do good on push-ups. I did good. I thought I had 11 but I had 10 and that was disappointing. Results were on line and I looked through them and they don’t show unless you make Top 10. I was in Top 10 for push-pull. I was in the Top 10 for push per pound for my size. I was in Top 10 for the vertical with pause at the bottom. I did OK in the chest throw. That’s an awkward one and it helps if you have long arms. Bike, I was surprised I held my own. This is all at 9 a.m. if that. It started at 8:30 and you are there at 7:30 for medical testing. Subway’s steak, eggs and bacon doesn’t do you too much. The bikes are all of what they were hyped to be, they sucked.
Q: You got to Toronto for the combine on Friday, did the combine on Saturday and graduated from Fargo North on Sunday. How did it all work?
Cooper: I was back by 7 p.m. (on Saturday) and I missed rehearsal but doing National Honor Society last year, I knew the routine. It was a big huge relief after the whole testing and I felt like crap. The big joke was not biking for another month/year. It was a different kind of thing. I like to keep hockey and school separate and then you have a train wreck with both, school drops and then hockey drops. I am pretty good at handling and keeping them separate. Graduation wasn’t stressful. Just walk across, smile and listen to the speakers. It was nice because (Force forward Nate Arentz)’ billets put on a graduation party and got to say hi to them and Nate’s family. And there were a couple other grad parties. It was a semi-busy day.
Q: You were named the USHL’s Scholar Athlete of the Year. Were you surprised you win the award or did you expect it?
Cooper: I don’t follow awards really. I read about it and I thought I should have got it last year. Its nice to get recognition for hard work and dealing with three years of high school, three years of junior hockey, three different coaches and the longest bus trips other than maybe Tri-City or Youngstown.