Stanley Cup Final features plenty of NAHL alumni
The 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final is ready to go with Game 1 on Wednesday, June 15th and no matter who wins to hoist the Cup this year, there will be an NAHL flavor.
Six players or coaches with NAHL ties will face-off in the final series as the Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning face the Western Conference Champion Colorado Avalanche.
The Lightning will aim to become the fourth franchise in NHL history – and first in nearly 40 years – to claim at least three consecutive Stanley Cups. The last team to do so was the Islanders’ dynasty (4x: 1980-83).
Tampa Bay has three members of the team with NAHL ties. They include head coach Jon Cooper, forward Pat Maroon, and forward Cole Koepke.
Cooper began his NAHL coaching career with the Texarkana Bandits in the 2003-04 season. He coached in the NAHL a total of five seasons with Texarkana and St. Louis. In 2004-05 and again in 2007-08, he was honored as the NAHL Coach of the Year.
Maroon played for Coach Cooper in the NAHL during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. During his first NAHL season in Texarkana, Maroon recorded 60 points in 57 games and was named to the NAHL’s All-Rookie Team. The Bandits moved to St. Louis the following year, when they won the first of back-to-back Robertson Cup National Championship titles. Their first of those titles came in 2007 when the Bandits defeated the Mahoning Valley Phantoms 8-4 on May 6, 2007 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Maroon, who was the league’s MVP that season with 95 points in 57 games played, recorded an astounding 23 points in just 12 playoff games on the way to the title, which included a hat-trick and an assist in the Championship game. Maroon’s 23 points still stands as the NAHL record for most points in a single post-season.
Lightning forward Cole Koepke (Minnesota Wilderness, 2015-16), who played the majority of the season with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL, has been a healthy scratch thus far. He appeared in nine games for the Wilderness during the 2015-16 season and had three points.
The Avalanche can become the fourth franchise in NHL history to win each of its first three or more Stanley Cup Final appearances. The Avalanche can become the sixth franchise to debut in the NHL’s expansion era (since 1967-68) or later to win at least three Stanley Cups.
The Colorado Avalanche also have three members with NAHL ties. They include forward Nico Strum (2013-15), and defensemen Jack Johnson (2003-05) and Erik Johnson (2004-06).
Sturm played in the NAHL for two seasons for two different teams. He debuted with the Corpus Christi IceRays during the 2013-14 season, recording three points in 21 NAHL regular season games. The next season in 2014-15, he flourished with the Austin Bruins, scoring 41 points in 53 games played. Sturm began the season with the Minnesota Wild and was traded to the Avalanche in mid-March.
Jack Johnson is one of two players on the Avalanche roster with at least 1,000 career regular-season games who have yet to win the Stanley Cup. He played in the NAHL for two seasons for the USNTDP team from 2003-05. He played in 41 career NAHL regular season games and recorded 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists).
Erik Johnson played in the NAHL for two seasons with the USNTDP team from 2004-06. Johnson played in 42 career NAHL regular season games and recorded 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists).
Based on their higher regular-season point total, the Colorado Avalanche will host Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final, as well as Games 5 and 7, if necessary. The Tampa Bay Lightning will host Games 3 and 4, as well as Game 6, if necessary.
Every game of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final will start at 8 p.m. ET and will be available on ABC, ESPN+ and the ESPN app in the U.S. In Canada, every game will be available on Sportsnet, CBC and TVA Sports.
Wednesday, June 15, 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at Colorado
Saturday, June 18, 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at Colorado
Monday, June 20, 8 p.m. Colorado at Tampa Bay
Wednesday, June 22, 8 p.m. Colorado at Tampa Bay
*Friday, June 24, 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at Colorado
*Sunday, June 26, 8 p.m. Colorado at Tampa Bay
*Tuesday, June 28, 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at Colorado