Jon Cooper didn’t wear a Tampa Bay Lightning T-shirt to his press conference Tuesday. The coach wore a Monster Magnet T-shirt instead.
He explained there was a guy named Jimmy with NHL Studios who had been following him around. Jimmy had been in a band called Monster Magnet, which had a song at the end of the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”
“The running joke was, you’ve got to wear a T-shirt at a press conference if you make the Stanley Cup Final,” Cooper said. “And so we made the Stanley Cup Final, and I’m owning up to Jimmy.”
The Lightning and the Dallas Stars are even in the best-of-7 series entering Game 3 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the Cup Final, on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
The story of the T-shirt isn’t really about the T-shirt. It’s a window into Cooper and his personality, and more importantly, it’s a window into the bubble and the bond between everyone in it: players, coaches, staff, everyone.
Jimmy — aka Jimmy Bags — is Jim Baglino, a sound technician who is working on “Quest for the Stanley Cup,” the six-part, all-access series with new episodes at 6 p.m. ET each Wednesday on ESPN+ in the United States and YouTube in Canada.
Baglino has worked the Cup Final so many times he can’t remember — 14 or 15, he thinks. This Cup Final is unlike any other.
“This is by far the most bizarre,” Baglino said. “I don’t know if bizarre is the right word.”
After the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, the League returned with an unprecedented 24-team tournament in bubbles and no fans in the stands.
The Lightning started in Toronto on July 26 and traveled to Edmonton when they made the Eastern Conference Final. The Stars started in Edmonton on July 26 and have been there ever since.
The members of each team have been going through the same experience as everyone working alongside them: COVID-19 testing, strict safety protocols, hotel life, restaurant meals, isolation from family and friends and the rest of the outside world.
“Everybody’s in it together,” Baglino said. “You see Dallas sitting over here. They’re having lunch. The Tampa guys are over here. I’m walking across the yard the other day. I run into [Cooper] coming from the food truck. I go get a coffee, and I see [Dallas coach Rick Bowness] having a coffee. It’s a unique experience.”
Everyone has a job to do as a professional, but everyone is a person with a life outside of work too.
“Players, coaches, everybody’s focused,” Baglino said. “We’re focused on what we’re doing. But there is that downtime where normally you go home, but you’re here. You have that downtime together a lot, and that’s when you start talking about non-hockey-related stuff.”
Baglino gets to know the players, coaches and officials well, because he helps mic them for sound. He has worked a lot with Cooper in the past. He followed Dallas and Tampa Bay in the conference finals and is following Tampa Bay in the Cup Final.
He likes to talk about music. He toured with Monster Magnet in the 1990s as a tech, and when the bass player left in the early 2000s, he became the bassist. He retired from touring about four years ago.
Turns out, Cooper likes to talk about music too.
One day recently, Cooper was talking about bands he knew, and Baglino mentioned he had been in Monster Magnet.
“He’s a thorough guy when it comes to hockey or when it comes to other things,” Baglino said. “So he kind of looked into it, and I think he kind of dug it a little bit.”
Long story short, the Lightning ordered a Monster Magnet T-shirt and had it shipped to the bubble. Cooper told Baglino that if Tampa Bay made the Cup Final, he would wear it. Baglino said he’d hold him to it.
After the Lightning defeated the Stars 3-2 in Game 2 on Monday, eventually the camera and the microphone turned off.
“I was like, ‘Where’s the Monster Magnet shirt, man?'” Baglino said. “I was kind of razzing him a little bit about it. He’s like, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to wear it.’ I’m like, ‘I’m holding you to it.'”
Cooper was good on his word. He wore the shirt to the press conference. Of course, it was a magnet for the media, and a reporter asked about it a couple minutes in. Cooper said he would circle back.
He was good on his word then too. At the end of the press conference, he volunteered the story, thinking Baglino was there to see it. The only problem was, for once, Baglino wasn’t there.
“I think it’s his first press conference that I missed, and it was the one that he wore that,” Baglino said with a laugh. “I may have to get him to wear it again.”