Lightning coach apologizes for saying goalies 'might as well put skirts on' after backlash


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After the Tampa Bay Lightning lost their first-round series to the in-state rival Florida Panthers, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper sounded off on the treatment of goalies in the NHL.

In Game 5 of the series, the one that knocked Tampa Bay out, the Lightning had two goals waved off for goalie interference.

Cooper was skeptical of the calls, calling them a “turning point” of their do-or-die contest, and he complained that battles in front of the net aren’t “allowed” anymore.

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Jon Cooper shaking hands with Sergei Bobrovsky

Head coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning congratulates goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) of the Florida Panthers after the Panthers’ 6-1 win in Game 5 of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Amerant Bank Arena April 29, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

“We might as well put skirts on them then, if that’s how it’s gonna be. … I think we’re letting goalies off the hook,” he said.

Cooper caught lots of flak for those comments, which were criticized as sexist.

Two days later, he apologized.

Jon Cooper on bench

Head coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning directs players after taking a timeout in the final minute of Game 1 of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Florida Panthers at Amerant Bank Arena April 21, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla.  (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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“It’s one of those minutes if you could just reach back and grab the words back, I would’ve,” Cooper said on Wednesday at Tampa Bay’s exit interviews. “Quite frankly, it was wrong, and I’ve got to go and explain myself to my girls. … I sincerely apologize to all I offended. 

“It’s pained me more than the actual series loss itself.”

Tampa Bay has made the playoffs in 10 of his 11 seasons on the job and won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021.

They made their third straight Stanley Cup Final in 2022 but lost to the Colorado Avalanche in six games. This is now the second consecutive year they have lost in the first round. They lost in 2023 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto’s first series win since 2004.

Jon Cooper

Head coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning during third period action against the Florida Panthers in Game 5 of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Amerant Bank Arena April 29, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla.  (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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Florida awaits the winner of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series. Boston leads that series 3-2 and hosts Game 6 Thursday night.

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