When Jim Jackson sees a Flyers goal, yells “SCORE!’’ and turns to Keith Jones for analysis on the replay, there’s an important third man who makes sure everything goes right.
That would be Bryan Cooper, in charge of all TV broadcasts, who’s working behind the scenes in the production truck either outside the Wells Fargo Center or some other NHL arena on the North American continent.
The Newtown resident loves what he does and it shows.
Now celebrating his 30th anniversary in this role, Cooper has been around hockey practically his entire life — first as a youth player in Connecticut, later competing at the University of Wisconsin, then working as a TV guy for ESPN and finally the Flyers.
At 63, he still exudes enthusiasm, working with Jackson, Jones and Bill Clement.
In fact, it was Clement who was instrumental in Cooper landing in Newtown – and with the Flyers’ production team — some four decades ago.
“When ESPN lost the hockey contract in ’89, I said it was time to go,’’ Cooper recalls. “After producing the ’89 NBA finals, two guys I had worked with, Mike Emrick and Bill, were hired by the Flyers after they also left ESPN.
“It was like they said, ‘We know a guy.’ So I followed them, literally and figuratively — I followed Bill right into the same neighborhood in Newtown for a generation.’’
Cooper got his start back in his native Connecticut. He played hockey with Bruce Connell, whose father, Scotty, was a producer for NBC.
When ESPN was formed in 1979, the elder Connell and Chet Simmons jumped aboard.
Before that Cooper hung around the NBC offices and soon found himself helping out as sort of a teenaged intern.
“I literally was a runner (intern) for NBC when I was in high school,’’ Cooper says. “This was around 1974. We would go to various games. I would go to games at Madison Square Garden. I did the finals games on weekends here in Philadelphia on the weekends.
“I played hockey. Bruce played hockey. Scotty was a hockey lover. And that’s how we got into it.’’
After graduating from Wisconsin (where he was a communications major), Cooper eventually started working at ESPN. By 1982, he was producing Indy car races, NASCAR and golf. He was on the road an estimated 300 days per year.
While at ESPN, he had the pleasure of producing the Flyers’ famous ’87 run to the Stanley Cup Finals, including the Brawl in Montreal and the famous Game 6 win over Edmonton at the Spectrum.
Then there was the five-overtime game in Pittsburgh in 2000. And let’s not forget the four-OT playoff game on Easter Sunday, 1987 (Islanders-Washington), where Clement and Emrick eventually took off their shirts and Bill wore his tie like a headband.
“Just to see Mike Emrick in an undershirt, now that was pretty unforgettable,’’ says “Coop’’ with a laugh.
“I don’t think they used that picture when they put them in the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.’’
Cooper soon found Philadelphia to his liking. The beauty of Bucks County, the convenience of I-95 and the Trenton train station made for an easy decision to stay.
“The great part of it was I-95 was being completed back then,’’ Cooper says. “So it was convenient to either drive or jump on the train in Trenton to go to Manhattan or head south to go to Philly.’’
Bryan and his wife, Laurie, have three children – Kathryn, 28; Grant, 26 and Alexandra (Alex), 24. All are involved in various forms of the media business, with Kathryn leading the wave by way of her work at CBC, MSG, SNY and soon the Olympic Channel/NBC.
Grant was a top-notch hockey player back in the day for Holy Ghost Prep.
“All our family members are hockey lovers,’’ Cooper explains. “They were around for the 2004 heartbreak (conference finals vs. Tampa Bay), the miracle of 2010 (four-game comeback vs. Boston).’’
Speaking of which, Cooper calls the Game 7 in Boston perhaps the highlight hockey event of his career.
“For me, it was just the most unbelievable moment that I have been part of,’’ he says. “I pushed for that game for a ‘return feed’ (interval simulcast from the Wells Fargo Center). I pushed for it, it was an expensive feed.
“But all of a sudden we’re down 3-0 and I’m thinking what a waste of money that was. Then the Flyers score, then they score again. When they tied it, because of the feed, there was a seven-second delay. So it was ‘goal in Boston, cut, they’re watching here (at the WFC), countdown 3-2-1, take Philadelphia.’ And the place goes crazy! It was awesome.’’
Those are the snapshot highlights that keep him coming back for more.
“I just love what I do,’’ he says. “But it’s gotten more difficult to do the game. Just the sense the league has pushed to make this the fastest game, time-wise, and it is. It’s not a concern if they miss commercials, they want this thing to be less than two-and-a-half hours.’’
His advice to a young, aspiring producer?
“Have passion about what you do,’’ he says. “I do this because I love the game. Love this whole media-television life. Every time I go into that truck, I don’t know what the story is going to be that night. I don’t who is going to be the star.
“My job is so easy. When you have guys like Jim Jackson, Bill and Keith. They are just so good. And now having Taryn Hatcher, telling the stories.’’
That team of five is about as professional as it gets.
“Working with Keith and Bill, they see the game differently,’’ Cooper says. “That, to me, is great to bring to the viewers but also as a producer. It’s fabulous.’’
The Coopers are still hoping the Stanley Cup returns before not too much longer.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying this,’’ he says. “Like I said, my kids remember some of the heartbreaks. In our family, it’s like: ‘When are we going to have a parade?’ I’d love to be standing on a float when that parade goes by.’’