Just in case he forgot exactly how many years he produced Flyers TV games; Bryan Cooper received an autographed Flyers jersey from team GM Daniel Briere with the number “34” inscribed on it and autographed by all the players as a reminder.
Boy, if that didn’t bring back memories for the Newtown resident, what would?
“Coop” as he’s known to both friends inside and outside the TV sports industry, has decided to call it a career this year after producing Philadelphia hockey games since 1989.
It was a storybook, decades-long tenure and allowed him to stay close to the sport he fell in love with as a child in his native Connecticut and later when playing for the University of Wisconsin.
The best part was following his favorite game these past three-plus decades after a multi-sport TV producing career at ESPN. And, in Philadelphia, working with some great people, such as play-by-play men Gene Hart and Jim Jackson, commentators Gary Dornhoefer, Bill Clement, Keith Jones and Steve Coates, plus a friendship with radio veteran Tim Saunders.
“My job and my career were ingrained in me,” Cooper explained in a recent phone call. “I grew up, learned and met my mentor, Scotty Connal, who started at ESPN. I was doing auto racing, golf and then ice hockey.
“I think the first game I produced (for ESPN) was a Hartford Whalers game in 1984. I produced the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985, ‘86, ‘87. And the 2006 Finals on Versus. That ’87 season was something special — I was involved in that magical year and that amazing run which the Flyers went on that included the brawl in Montreal, the J.J. Daigneault goal in Game 6 of the Finals at the Spectrum. I just happened to be in an ESPN truck that day. And then finished with Game 7 in Edmonton. All that time I was working with Mike Emrick and Clement.”
When ESPN lost the NHL contract in 1989, it was time to change addresses.
“It was amazing how things just moved down the road,” Cooper said. “When ESPN lost the contract, the Flyers were in a terrible situation. A producer passed away. They needed a producer and Mike and Bill said we got a guy. So in 1989, the journey began.
“That journey included many memorable games. The 2010 Flyers Game 7 comeback win in Boston and Keith Primeau’s game-winning goal in the fifth overtime against the Penguins in 2000. Two of the too many memories to include.”
By now, in his mid-60s, Cooper had thought about retirement, but the pandemic helped make the decision for him.
During the health crisis, producers and support staff around the league watched their travel stop. When conditions got better, the travel didn’t. Cooper was grounded and that is when he knew it was pretty much time to go.
“When the pandemic hit, everything changed because nobody in the league traveled,” Cooper said. “There was such a family atmosphere, both with the broadcasters and with the team. Everything has changed now in the sense that the broadcasters, they travel. The producers and directors, we don’t. And that to me was a huge piece in me deciding I had had enough. I don’t know the players anymore. I had very few conversations with coaches or assistant coaches recently. Seeing the other broadcasters around the league. Other production people.”
It’s just a different world now.
Bryan and his wife, Laurie, get to travel abroad and also spend time with their three grown children – two living in California and one in New York City. They just did a three-week trip to Scandinavia and another three on the West Coast.
The youngest of the trio, daughter Alex, has her own podcast on Spotify named “Call Her Daddy’’ and right now it’s sitting at the top of the listenership charts.
Their son, Grant, owns a software company in the Santa Monica, Calif. area. And daughter Kathryn works in New York both at SNY and CBS networks as an editor.
What Cooper will miss most about his TV career with the Flyers are the friendships and relationships he developed.
“On a recent sports media podcast, it was mentioned, (TV traveling parties) one of the biggest highlights of the game is when they all get together on the night before a game, to have a dinner with all the production crew, and talk about the upcoming telecast and plan the show,” Cooper said.
“That brought back memories. I said, ‘we used to do that.’ We would sit with whomever the GM was with the team, coach or assistant coaches plus all the guys like Jackson, Jones, Clement. A great way to get to know each other and understand what we each do and how we can work better together. When you don’t have that opportunity anymore, it really feels tough to be part of a team.”
His career did end on a high note.
“I think it was the last game of the season,” Cooper recalled. “Danny Briere gave me a framed Flyer jersey with the number 34 on it, with my name on it, signed by all the players. That was for the 34 years I produced Flyers games.
“My career was an amazing run. All the exhilarating games and memories. I was blessed to work with the best on air talent, production and engineering group. They were my teammates.”