A banner in memory of Thomas Coopersmith, longtime coach and founding memory of the Souderton Ice Hockey team, was placed on the wall at Hatfield Ice prior to Friday night’s game.
He was affectionately known simply as ‘Coop,’ and the Souderton Ice Hockey team lost a valued member of its family when Thomas ‘Coop’ Coopersmith passed away unexpectedly last summer at the age of 58.
“He was just totally about hockey, but he also was totally about the kids,” said Duane Brobst, who coached with Coopersmith. “He had great concern about the kids. He mentored a lot of the kids, helped a lot of kids who had struggles in high school and gave them guidance and leadership.”
Coopersmith was a founding member of Souderton Ice Hockey in 1997, along with Rick Storer, Charlie Kulp and Bill Schmidt. He was involved in the program and served as a coach for 15 years, 10 of those years after his son Aaron Coopersmith graduated in 2001.
“Coop helped establish the hockey community that we enjoy today,” Brobst said. “For over three decades, he was an advocate for high school hockey.
“He enjoyed the challenge of each new season and the new players each year brought, and like many others that have gone on before, it’s right and good that we honor his memory. Coop was a good coach, and he was a good man.”
With his family in attendance, Coopersmith was honored prior to Souderton’s game against Central Bucks West on Friday night. Former players and coaches paid tribute to ‘Coop,’ and a banner was unveiled that will hang in his memory at Hatfield Ice.
“Coop was a fiery, high emotion coach with an infectious laugh, who would go to any extent to help or back his players, coaches and the organization,” Souderton assistant coach Jim McMichael said.
Coopersmith led Souderton to an ICSHL East Championship in 2002-03. Souderton had multiple playoff appearances during his tenure at the helm, qualifying for the Flyers Cup and taking a team to the tournament in 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2010.
“His passion for life, leadership and goodwill will live on in his players, coaches and friends he impacted in his 15 years at Souderton ice hockey,” McMichael said.
“When we played against him (in men’s leagues), he was just a tough bulldog kind of player that you just hated to play against because he was always in your face, digging the puck out. He was just tenacious.
“Years later, we got back together, and we started coaching Souderton. We coached the teams in that same fashion, kind of the old style hockey – work hard and just play a tough game, but having said all that, he kept up with modern strategies, and we always had a highly competitive team.
“A couple of things that stand out. A number of years ago we started 12 freshmen players. It was a year we knew we were going to have a tough season because of so many young players, but they were highly skilled players. We only won three games that year, but two of them were against North Penn. What was thrilling about that was Coop started the North Penn hockey team and coached that team for 10 years. All the varsity coaches and all the jayvee coaches were graduates of North Penn, so we took great pride that we beat our old high school and knocked them out of first place. That was one of the highlights. Years later that team matured into a very competitive team that went deep in the Flyers Cup.
“(We) always talked hockey. Every Saturday morning we would meet at the Franconia Mini Market for over 10 years, and we talked about hockey – the game before, the game after and the game coming. We used to go to college hockey games together. The waitresses would know us because we turned over the placemats and drew hockey plays on the placemats. He was short in stature but large in heart and we miss him greatly.”
--Duane Brobst, Longtime friend who coached with Coopersmith seven years
“Coop was a great person. He was a great friend both on and off the ice and a fantastic coach. He always pushed you to work hard during practice and during the games because he wanted the best out of you and he wanted the best for you. He was supportive but at the same time wanted to try to push you past your comfort zone to make sure that you were giving the team everything you had to not let yourself down to not let your teammates down and to really work together and accomplish something. He’s a great person, and he’s really missed by us as a team and by his family and by the community. I have nothing but great memories from my time at Souderton, You get nostalgic when you look back, and you wish you could go back and play. I would go back and live those four years over again. They were fantastic.”
--Daniel Brobst, Played defense for Brobst as a four-year varsity player
“Tom is one of the reasons we are here tonight and enjoy this community of hockey families because of the energy he brought so many years ago when he started playing hockey back in the 70s. He originally coached a number of years down at North Penn and then his son ended up being captain of our (Souderton) club. He was an advocate for hockey, and he enjoyed every year. I don’t know that Tom ever had a favorite year. Every year was an adventure. These were young men that he was trying to push into a sport that he loved but also help them find something in their lives. Raising the banner to him tonight is a good and right thing, but the young men that are taking the ice tonight owe a debt to the energy he showed through all these years to help push this. For all the ones that have gone before, like Tom, it’s right that we take a moment to honor his memory and to thank him for what he did to help our sport and help hockey.”
--Doug Worley, Former board member and close friend of Coopersmith from the construction industry.
“My best memory with Coop was during the ICSHL championship game when we were playing Roman Catholic. We were down 2-0 with five minutes left in the game, and Coop made a move of moving Andrew Storer up from defense onto my line, and we scored three goals in the last five minutes. It was one of the best memories that I’ll ever have playing for Souderton ice hockey, and it was all because of Coop’s move - moving Storer up, and I’ll always remember that."
--Brian Ruth, Former Souderton player