TRANSLATED from Slovenian by ZAVESA
Total Tedna (Total of the Week), 17. august 2007
A familiar combination: long blond hair, sticking from under a reversed cap, hockey stick and a powerful shot of the round rubber into the net. Anže Kopitar, NHL, Los Angeles. On vacation of course. In his American dream job the young boy from Hrušica puts on his helmet instead of a cap. And laces first his right, than his left skate. He's not superstitious. If he expected help from high above, he wouldn't be what he is today - a magician on ice.
I'm sure there is a difference in covering hockey here (in Slo) and in the US. Did you have to go through a speaking course before appearing in front of microphones for the first time?
Yes, there are big differences. In US there are journalists specialized for one sport only and know all the details of the field they are covering.
As for here, I get some out of place and sometimes provocative questions. So I have to be careful not to offend anyone or to put myself too high.
I didn't have to go to any speaking or PR class, they (the Kings) just told me to be myself and not to play superstar. That's what I was and didn't have any problems.
Where do you have a better feeling, in LA, where you can disappear in the crowd after games, or back here, where you are recognized almost everywhere?
I feel good everywhere, each place has positive and negative sides. I LA my name really disappears. I kind of expected all the hype here when I returned after the season, so I wasn't all that surprised. Regardless, I still have to be careful not to do anything stupid, as the media would publish that and it would put a black mark next to my name.
You are one of the biggest names of Slovenian sports.
Is there a line you draw between your public and private life, which you do not let to be crossed?
Each person has a certain right to privacy, even if he is a public figure. I'm available to everyone, but when I realize that something interferes with what I do, I tell people that I don't have time or that I have to go because of other obligations. Some things are really too much. After this year's World championship (IIHF div 1 in Ljubljana, Sloveina won promotion to WC in Canada next year, Anze had 1G, 13 A in 5 GP), there was a huge interest in me from all the major TV stations, so I had to drive to Ljubljana (all major station are in our capital) as much as three times a week. It wasn't a problem doing it, but things that happen on our roads... Not that I drive too fast, but suppose someone crashes me and my career could be over. So I told them it was too much and too risky for me to drive there every other day.
Your family will finally move to LA this year, you will be especially happy to have you mother by. Is there anything she pampers you with?
Yes she does and doesn't at the same time. To me it's big to have a home made meal, tidy apartment and my room cleaned... Yes, she still cleans my room. And washes and iron some of my clothes, so I can focus on my things. NHL hockey is different, but she has never told me she was afraid for me when I go to games. She tells me not to look for trouble, but in the game of hockey, trouble can find you very quickly. Even when I was little, I was told to watch myself, but the more I'll do that, the faster I'll get some.
You didn't have any bigger injuries aside from your back, but this year you have lost some teeth playing InLine (roller hockey)?
Yeah, I lost 5 teeth. We were playing some InLine with my friends, when I got a stick to my teeth by accident. To tell you the truth, I knew I was going to loose some of my teeth because of hockey. I stupidly lost 5 this summer.
In 72 games in the NHL, I never had injury problems apart from my back. It was close at times, but nothing bad. Last year, I broke my pinky two weeks before leaving for rookie camp, and this year the thing with my teeth. I think I'm done playing InLine. I'll go skating sometimes, but I'm done playing.
When will the first day of Anže Kopitar's NHL sophomore season arrive?
I don't know yet. I have to attend camp first, do a lot of tests and prove myself again. To be with the Kings from my first game till the day I retire, is science fiction right now. If I came to the camp unprepared or out of shape, they might send me to AHL or some special program until they believed I was ready to play for them again.
You have never bragged about yourself. I you weren't as tall as you are, I would miss you at the local mall.
I have worked hard, had to give up a lot of things to be where I am now. I have heard some accusations that I was always pushed forward, chosen instead of others. But I have always worked, practiced for myself, not for others.
Maybe I had some luck being at the right place at the right time (to get noticed), maybe it was just meant to be. Is it my falut I made it? My apprentice time in Sweden was difficult, it wasn't very nice. I was alone. A lot of kids wouldn't want to leave home at 16. But I believed in myself, in my abilities, so I didn't burden myself with what could go wrong. Good team, arena, that I had a good stick... Those were the things that were important to me, not having a good time at some bar in the evening.
Were you nervous in the locker-room before your first game? There were more than a million people watching, including some in Slovenia after all.
At first, they planned to send to AHL, but I was so good that they just couldn't. It was the first official NHL game, we were playing Anaheim, that's something like Jesenice vs. Olimpija back here (too biggest clubs and rivals here). I didn't feel any tension, but when I put my helmet on, my legs got a bit soft. During the anthem I was so nervous I was sweating. But then, when I got my first shift, received a pass and went by some players, I saw I can do it. I wasn't nervous any more. And then I blew past Pronger, NHL superstar defenseman, and scored a goal. I didn't bother myself with being nervous anymore after that.
You live in LA, Hollywood is near by. Could we see Anže Kopitar star in a movie some day? You're very fluent in English!
Never say never, as you never know where the road of life might lead you. But I have to say again, hockey is number 1 in my life and that of my family right now. If I got a good offer for Hollywood, I don't know... But that shouldn't interfere with my practices, my games. I love hockey too much.
Fun facts (some you guys already know):
His English: Marjana, Anže's grandmother, was an English teacher at a primary school in Jesenice. Anže learned his English at home, and his is one of the best among foreign players in the league. That surprised many of the journalists, who have interviewed or talked to him.
Girlfriend: He met his girlfriend Ines at a U-18 World championship in Maribor (Slovenia). They are together for 2,5 years. She is not living with him in LA, nor does she play hockey.
Telephone: For talking to his family and friend, Anže spent over a 1000 Euro in the first three weeks of spending in US. He said he had to score alot of goals to pay for that.
Pancakes: He can eat as many as ten at a time. Chocolate, walnuts, jam or Nutella. He loves them even more if the filling is home made. He weighs 101 kg and is 192 cm tall (sorry, don't know the conversions).
Strong as an ox: He is preparing in a gym, on a running track and uses InLine skates to simulate skating on ice. He has to be well prepared when he arrives to LA, has to be strong, have good balance, strong back and stomach muscles.
(all the text in the fractions was added be me as notes, I apologize for and typos ar bad translation)