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Brothers in arms: Logan Cooley's siblings played a starring role in his rise

Craig Morgan Avatar
December 12, 2023
The Cooley brothers (from left to right): Eric, Logan and Riley.

Some of Logan Cooley’s favorite hockey memories were forged at the Rostraver Ice Garden in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania. In most of those memories, his older brothers, Eric and Riley, played a leading role.

When he was too young to take the ice himself, Logan would watch his brothers practice or play games. The short attention span of a kid meant that he would also play mini sticks in the hallways with his buddies. Or he’d play tag underneath the well worn wooden bleachers. Or he’d bug his parents for quarters to buy gumballs; cash to buy pretzels, nachos or Mike & Ikes.

“We kind of knew everyone at the rink, whether it be the workers or parents, so we could do whatever we wanted; run around the bleachers, chase each other,” Logan said. “It was such a great time, the good old days of just being a kid with not a worry in the world.”

More than anything, Cooley wanted what his brothers already had. He wanted to play hockey.

“That’s why I always wanted to go to my brothers’ practices, even though a lot of the time they were pretty late at night,” he said. “Seeing the older guys out there on the ice just made me want to be out there so bad. I really think that’s what started my love of hockey.”

A view of the ice from Murph's Pub at Rostraver Ice Garden where the Cooley boys learned to play.
Rostraver Ice Garden features a bar above one end of the rink known as Murph’s Pub where parents will often watch practices or games from the shelter of the enclosed and heated space. (Photo via Rostraver Ice Garden Facebook page)

As Cooley prepares to play his first NHL game in his hometown on Tuesday when the Coyotes face the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena (he grew up in nearby West Mifflin), many of those childhood memories are flooding back into his mind.

He remembers signing up for the Sidney Crosby Little Penguins Learn to Play program during its inaugural season in 2008. He members youth games at Rostraver, a rink whose wear and tear prevented Kraft Hockeyville from staging its planned game there between the Penguins and Blues in 2017. He remembers catching the eye of USA Hockey and getting his first invitation to a National Team Development Program camp. And most of all, he remembers the now-legendary outdoor rink that Cooley’s uncle, John Mooney, built between his house and the Cooleys’ house in an area affectionately referred to as the compound.

“Any time you came home from school and either did or didn’t have your homework done, you told your mother it was done and you met everybody out there,” Eric Cooley said. “We had a couple of buddies that lived in the neighborhood and word got around pretty quick when we were having a game.

“The newcomers were also the guys that we convinced to stand in the net because we didn’t want to. We always needed a goalie so someone was getting invited up, but they probably didn’t stand in there too long after the pucks started flying.”

Pucks weren’t the only things flying in those games that often featured full squads on either side with players waiting to sub in. Emotions were flying, too.

“Maybe 25 percent of the games actually finished because the rest ended in a fight,” Riley Cooley said. “Most of the time, it was me starting the fight, but everyone had their moments.”

Photo courtesy of Eric Cooley

Logan began his career like many younger brothers begin their careers: whining for inclusion. Once in the game, however, it didn’t take long for him to showcase a competitive drive and next-level puck skills.

“I don’t remember a time where Logan wasn’t just really good,” Eric said. “Even when he was younger, he was always so far ahead of the kids his age. I think his first couple seasons, they played cross ice instead of full ice and my parents would actually have to tell him before games to pass the puck more because he would have like 10 goals or something absurd.”

Every one of the Cooley boys went through a goalie phase, much to the chagrin of their dad, Eric Sr. One winter, John Mooney didn’t build the compound rink so Eric Sr. built one in the Cooley’s backyard. One end of the rink was tucked under the porch, offering Logan a way to conceal his positional preference.

“I always wanted to be the goalie; I thought it was so much fun,” he said. “My dad would come home from work and I’d be hiding under the porch in my goalie gear. He’d come running out and tell me to take it off and shoot pucks.

“I think probably one of the biggest reasons he hated it is I didn’t have full equipment. It was pads, glove and blocker; no helmet. I guess he didn’t want me to take a puck to the face.”

The porch would have provided the perfect hiding place from mom as well, had the boys figured out how to soundproof the wooden walls and the glass behind the net. Riley estimates that the boys broke at least three windows in their childhood. The price for replacement is still unknown.

“My favorite story was when Logan did online school for a couple years in middle school,” Eric said. “One day, Logan logs into his class but he obviously thinks he should be elsewhere so he ties his skates up and puts his winter suit on.

“My mom is sitting at her desk upstairs and she keeps hearing this constant thud, thud, thud. She looks out the window and he’s outside skating around and shooting pucks with his class still going downstairs. She flips out on him; tells him to come in. He comes back in and 30 minutes later, she’s like, ‘I gotta go check on him now to see what he’s doing.’ His skates and skate guards are still on, so is his winter jacket and he’s sitting at the kitchen table finishing up his class.”

Logan called those some of the best times in his life.

“I’d come back to the house with like one minute left before I had to be signing in to my next class with my skates on, gloves on, everything still on,” he said. “School wasn’t really my thing. Hockey was everything I wanted to do so I’m happy it worked out for me.”

That’s especially true when you consider the manner in which Cooley attended those online classes.

“When I was sitting there, I’d be watching NHL highlights from the night before, not even paying attention to class,” he said, laughing. “I haven’t told my mom that even now.”

Photo courtesy of Riley Cooley

Eric was the first Cooley boy to play collegiate hockey; first at Niagara and then at Ohio State. Riley played briefly in juniors for the NAHL’s New Mexico Ice Wolves and Eric played a year of pro hockey for the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals and the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.

By the time Logan turned 16, it was evident that he was destined for greater hockey heights than his brothers. First came the NTDP, then a year at the University of Minnesota and then the 2022 NHL Draft in Montréal where the Coyotes selected him third overall.

“I don’t know if anybody could have expected that when we were growing up,” Riley said. “That’s a lofty goal so we understood how almost impossible it was, but when it came to professional hockey, Eric and I could see it. You can never be sure if somebody’s going to make it because there’s so many kids playing with the same goal, but Eric and I would always say that Logan had the best chance because he was just unstoppable.”

Riley played his last year of hockey in 2019-20 and is now finishing up a finance degree at Penn State. Eric was originally slated to play for the AHL’s Utica Comets this season but he shifted gears and elected to “get on with my life.” He recently moved to north Scottsdale and is working as a trauma medical sales associate for DePuy Synthes, the Orthopaedics Company of Johnson & Johnson.

“It’s so awesome having him here,” Logan said. “Even if he’s just helping me with some meals or I’m able to hang out with him, it has been super helpful for me in making this transition a little bit easier. Obviously, it’s not only a big transition on the ice but off the ice, too. I’m still a young kid and still learning a lot on and off the ice so I love having my brother around.”

The entire family was in town on Dec. 4 to watch the Coyotes’ 6-0 whipping of the Washington Capitals and Logan’s boyhood idol, Alex Ovechkin. Eric won’t be able to attend the game in Pittsburgh due to his new job and his new hometown, but the rest of the crew should be there along with countless family members and friends.

The Cooley brothers with their sister, Lauren. (Photo courtesy of Riley Cooley)

“I think now my role is kind of to be a distraction from hockey for Logan,” Eric said. “It’s all we talked about our whole lives, but now I find myself in a unique spot where we just hang out or we get the odd time to golf. I’m just back to being the older brother and being that escape whenever he needs it.

“I know it wasn’t easy when I went through the pro process and the demanding schedule and everything else that goes along with it. I think it’s good for him to have that home-away-from-home feel, get away from hockey and unplug for a bit because he’s just someone that’s so dialed in all the time.”

Riley agreed.

“We were very competitive growing up, but once you stop playing hockey, it changes a little bit,” he said. “Now I have just been trying to support him every way I can, always being positive and maybe giving him a little advice or teaching if there’s something I see.

“But let’s be honest. There’s not much to teach Logan now.”

Top photo of Cooley brothers (left to right) Eric, Logan and Riley (photo via Riley Cooley)

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