Stanley Cup Winning Coach Jared Bednar Brings Cup To South Carolina Stingrays Arena, Started Coaching Career With Capitals ECHL Affliliate

Photo: @SCStingrays

Jared Bednar, head coach of the 2022 Stanley Cup Winning Colorado Avalanche, got his start as a head coach in the Washington Capitals’ system, coaching for the South Carolina Stingrays. Before the 2007-08 season, he was promoted to head coach of the Stingrays,  replacing Jason Fitzsimmons, who had resigned his position to became a scout for the Capitals.

Tuesday was Bednar’s designated Day with the Stanley Cup. One of his destinations on his day was to bring the Cup to the North Charleston Coliseum, the arena where the Stingrays play.

Bednar was a defenseman in his playing days, mostly in the ECHL, but he also occasionally played in the AHL and played one year in the IHG. He played his last two professional seasons, 2000-01 and 2001-02 with the Stingrays.

Bednar became the assistant coach of the Stingrays after Fitzsimmons was elevated from assistant coach to head coach before the 2002-02 season. The Stingrays, who were an independent team at the time, became the Capitals’ ECHL affiliate just before the 2003-04 season and have been the Capitals affiliate ever since, with the exception of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, when they were the Boston Bruins’ ECHL affiliate.

TAMPA, FLORIDA – JUNE 26: Head Coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche and head coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning talk on the ice after the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Game Six of the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 26, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Similar Paths

Bednar’s successful start to his career as head coach, in many ways, has followed a similar trajectory as the career of Jon Cooper, the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Neither had ever played in the NHL. Both became coaches, thanks to referrals.

Coach Jason Fitzsimmons convinced Bednar to retire as a player and become his assistant.  Cooper, then a lawyer, played on a hockey team called the “Legal Eagles” where a lawyer colleague who also played on that team, convinced him to coach his son’s high school team.

Head Coaching Before AHL

Both Bednar and  Cooper won championships at levels lower than the AHL, which eventually led them to becoming head coaches in the AHL and eventually winning the Calder Cup. In the case of Cooper, it was coaching high school and various levels of United States Junior Hockey. In the case of Bednar, it was coaching the ECHL Stingrays.

AHL Head Coaching

Both Bednar and Cooper became NHL coaches after their Calder Cup-winning seasons. Bednar won with the Erie Monsters in the AHL in the 2015-16 season, sweeping the Washington Capitals’ AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Cooper won the Calder Cup with the Norfolk Admirals in 2011-12.

Bednar had several assistant and head coaching positions prior to becoming head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters in 2015-16. Cooper became head coach of the Norfolk Admirals in 2010-11.

NHL Coaching

Both Bednar and Cooper were named head coaches with NHL teams less than a year after coaching their AHL teams to winning the Calder Cup. Bednar became head coach of the Colorado Avalanche before the 2016-17 season and Cooper became the Lightning head coach more than halfway through the 2012-13 season. In both cases, the team was doing poorly at the time, but had a good nucleus of players.

During both of their head coaching tenures, their teams developed into perennial contenders but had trouble getting over the hump and winning the Stanley Cup. In the case of the Avalanche, their first season under Bednar, 2017-18, was a disaster, as in one of the worst records in franchise history. But they made the playoffs in 2018-19 and subsequently became a perennial contender.

Under Cooper’s coaching career, the Lightning made the playoffs every season, except for 2016-17. They were usually at or near the top of their division but could never win the Stanley Cup. In 2018-19, they won the Presidents’ Trophy only to get swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs. But, after that, they won two consecutive Stanley Cups, in 2019-20 and 2020-21. The 2021-22 season was their third consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.

First Time Milestone

Bednar is the first coach to win championships at the ECHL level (Kelly Cup), AHL level (Calder Cup), and NHL Level (Stanley Cup).

NHL writer Tom Gulitti accompanied Bednar during his day with the Cup.

This is the second time that the Stanley Cup was brought to North Charleston Coliseum, with his predecessor as head coach being the first in 2018.

Jason Fitzsimmon’s Day With The Stanley Cup In Charleston, South Carolina

In many ways, Bednar, the coach of the newly crowned Stanley Cup champions is following in the footsteps of Jon Cooper, the coach of the previous champions. This year’s Stanley Cup Finals could have possibly been considered the Cooper Cup Finals as well.

By Diane Doyle

Related Reading
The Fan: 104.3 FM — Bednar’s Day with Stanley Cup
WPDE ABC Channel 15 Charleston: Bednar’s Day with Stanley Cup
Lansing State Journal: Story on Jon Cooper with Lightning
USA Hockey Magazine: Road Less Traveled — Jon Cooper’s Rise in NHL Coaching Ranks
NHL — Tampa Bay Lightning — Staff — Jon Cooper
Sportsnet: NHL — Jared Bednar’s Evolution Into One of the Brightest Coaching Minds in Hockey
News Herald: No Bulletin for Monsters — Bednar is a Winner

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
This entry was posted in AHL, Coach, Coaching, History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Stanley Cup Winning Coach Jared Bednar Brings Cup To South Carolina Stingrays Arena, Started Coaching Career With Capitals ECHL Affliliate

  1. novafyre says:

    Thanks. Great story. I really appreciate the farm clubs getting some love, some recognition of their NHL ties, of that role.

  2. Diane Doyle says:

    Fun linguistic fact – Bednar is the Czech and Slovakian word for “cooper”.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Another coach that got away. 🙄

  4. DWGie26 says:

    Really cool story about both coaches coming up through the ranks. Never knew that about Cooper. Youth hockey to HS coach to climbing the ranks. Cray Cray!

    • Diane Doyle says:

      Cooper was a lawyer who played college lacrosse but played hockey with his team of lawyers for fun. And then coached HS.

Leave a Reply