Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who has twin daughters, recognized the impact of U.S. Olympic silver medalist Anne Schleper skating with his team Monday morning.
“If that helps 10 little girls line up to play hockey,” Cooper said, “if [my daughters] look at this and are like, ‘You know what, I’d love to play hockey,’ then it’s paying off.”
Schleper joined the likes of All-Star Steven Stamkos, who would go on to score a hat trick in a 7-1 win over the Canadiens, and another U.S. Olympian, Ryan Callahan, for the morning skate.
“It’s good that we’re able to get out here and get some exposure and push the limits a little bit,” Schleper told Bolts TV. “Women’s hockey has definitely a long ways to go.”
Schleper was nervous at first but showed more confidence as the practice went on, Cooper said.
“You know what I was really impressed with her? She spoke a lot on the ice,” Cooper said. “She was really active, saying all the right things. She was calling for the puck.”
The Lightning also honored U.S. Paralympic champion Declan Farmer from the Sochi sledge hockey team in the spring.
“Ultimately, it is about the sport of hockey,” Cooper said. “It’s not about men’s hockey and women’s hockey. It is hockey. Sled hockey. We’re in this together. … It doesn’t matter who you are, gender, race. When you get into a hockey arena, we’re all about talking about the same thing.
Schleper, 24, scored one goal in her first Olympics as the U.S. won a second straight silver medal behind Canada in February.
Schleper’s teammate, Hilary Knight, practiced with the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 3 and said she hopes to one day play in an NHL preseason game.
Canadian Olympic goalie Shannon Szabados practiced with the Edmonton Oilers on March 5.
Szabados and Finland Olympic goalie Noora Raty play in men’s leagues.
Go to the 50-second mark for a report on Schleper: