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The Places Hockey Will Take You

By AHAI, 06/15/22, 10:45PM CDT


Defenseman Cooper Feinberg started skating in the Glen Ellyn Admirals Mitey Mite program when he was 5 years old. He then moved to the Chicago Blues, playing for former Olympian coach Chris Imes, where he landed on the Central States team. As a Pee Wee Minor, his focus and intensity caught the eye of Jimmy Andersen at the Chicago Fury, where Cooper continued to develop as a hockey player and elite student. His move to the Fury also started a playing streak - 7 straight seasons without missing a game. His Bantam Major season started a run of three state championships and three Regional qualifiers, a Regional championship, and USA Hockey Nationals appearance.
When Cooper turned 14 he set his eyes on playing hockey for the Air Force Academy. He began meeting with distinguished alumni to understand the Academy experience. As a 15 year old he was recruited by Stanley Cup winner and Olympian Brian Rafalski to play for the Green Bay Gamblers AAA hockey team. After earning a roster spot he trained with local coaches during the week and commuted to Waupaca, Wisconsin on the weekends for 7 hours, or more, of on-ice training under the tutelage of the Hall of Fame defenseman.
The Chicago Mission had their eye on Cooper when he left to play hockey in Wisconsin, and as an 18U Cooper earned a roster spot playing for the Mission, the team he always wanted to play for.
Hockey has done many things for Cooper, including helping to hone his leadership skills, and he developed an opportunity to give back to the game he loves. In August before his 18U season Cooper organized a 2-day, all expenses paid, hockey event for underprivileged 12-13 year old hockey players in Illinois. The Chicago Blackhawks donated ice at Fifth Third Arena and Cooper recruited campers from the local clubs, several local coaches, and his brother Mack helped run the event.
What’s remarkable about Cooper's hockey journey is his academic success while managing the challenges of the AAA hockey schedule. When asked about how he managed hockey and school Cooper said, “The discipline associated with being an elite hockey player directly attributed to my success as a student and teammate - and I had a blast, especially this last season with the Mission.”
As the puck dropped on his senior year, Cooper was accepted as a candidate for the Air Force Academy, which then started the long application process. This included multiple interviews with Academy officers, one of which took place minutes before a game started, and being interviewed by a panel from Congressman Sean Casten's Office. Cooper received a nomination to the Academy from the Congressman and the last steps were medical clearance, fitness testing, and finally being accepted.
In addition to applying to the Academy, Cooper traveled around the country playing hockey where scouts began to take notice of his game. He was recruited by Junior A hockey teams in Canada and the NCDC. Cooper tendered with the Wilkes Barre Knights and set his sights on focusing on junior hockey, without the responsibility of school.
In April he received the incredible news he was accepted into the Air Force Academy. Cooper was faced with the decision to either go play junior hockey or accept his appointment with the Academy, an education valued at over $400,000. There is no option to defer your appointment, a cadet loses their spot if they chose not to accept the appointment.
Cooper had been on the radar of the Academy’s hockey staff, so there was the option to play junior hockey and hope he would get committed to the Academy through their athletic channels, but there was no guarantee. It was a tough decision but Cooper accepted his appointment to the Academy to serve his country.
The good news is his dream of playing hockey for the Air Force is still alive. The Academy’s hockey staff will pull Cooper out of basic training this summer so he can train with the D1 team, evaluate his game, and he could potentially earn a roster spot as a practice player. He would be the youngest player on the roster with the oldest being 25 years old.
Cooper graduated with 4 academic honors, High Honors, Illinois State Scholar, Illinois State Spanish Scholar, and National Honors Society.