January 9th, 2007, 12:55 PM #1
Interview with Anže Kopitar's family
Translated from the Slovenian newspaper, Nedeljski dnevnik, by "Puck"
In August 2006, on Anze’s 18th birthday, Kopitar family was gathered at their home and were celebrating son’s NHL draft by team LA Kings – Anze, father Matjaz (once successful hockey player and member of the national team, now a coach of the best Slovenian team Jesenice), mother Mateja, brother Gasper (also hockey player) and grandparents (once both basketball players). And none of them even dared to dream that something like that would ever happen. The question was just when Anze will actually start to play in the best league in the world…
Anze was born on 24th of August 1987 in Jesenice, industrial town in NW of the country. And even then he was something special: they brought him home from maternity hospital in red sweater (red is the colour of the Jesenice hockey team). He learned to skate when he was four years old and started to visit local hockey school when he was five. His early hockey years were similar to other boys: he usually woke up at 6 p.m., had training and then (often without shower) went strait to primary school, remembers his father. And that was his timetable day after day, month after month. His role model was father Matjaz, forward in Jesenice team and later coach, also to his son.
Anze was six and a half when he played at a tournament in nearby Villach (Austria), where all the other boys were two years older than him. He scored 28 goals on that tournament. That was the first sign that he was somewhat special…
Anze’s grandmother Marjana says that he wrote a book when he was ten with a title “Secret dreams of hockey player Miha”. The one and only dream this Miha character had was playing in NHL. It became obvious that Miha is actually Anze. Grandmother wrote in his book: “Hockey player Miha has very high dreams.”
During high school Anze’s schoolmates and friends started to visit parties and disco clubs. But he lived only for ice, skates, training and game.
When he became best local junior player he played at Youth Olympics Tournament in nearby Bled and a lot of NHL scouts were monitoring his game. Swede Lars Soder had a talk with Anze’s father and Anze went to Sweden, to team Södertälje. He was alone there, for the first time without parents, mother language, friends. His father recalls that this move was first real big step in Anze’s life. Not only because the quality hockey which is played in Sweden but also because he had to adopt to different way of thinking and hard life. “But I wasn’t worried because Anze lived only for hockey and I knew he will survive this separation from family and will progress very fast.” Anze started to play in junior team and soon he was a member of the first team. Then NHL draft followed and a final year in Sweden.
First sign that Anze could play in NHL came during the World Championship preparation game of Slovenian team against Russia in Jesenice. Anze played very well against Russian (and NHL) stars. During the Championship in Austria national team coach Kari Savolainen (Matjaz Kopitar was his assistant) said to Matjaz that he (as a father) must not prevent Anze to play, because everyone can see that he is no.1 of the team.
So Anze went to the United States before the start of this NHL season. He had to show all that he was capable of and fulfil hard NHL demands. And he was noticed by Kings fans right away. They discovered his humble and honest character and of course his hockey skills. When rumours started that he will be sent to Manchester (second team) fans demanded that Anze becomes a member of LA Kings team. Team management received 12000 fan email saying that he must wear Kings jersey.
Anze’s great hockey skills (and apparently huge number of email) prevailed. “He also showed that he wants to learn, which is great for any coach. Even when he was younger and had to adapt to older players he was never scared of anything and didn’t hide from responsibility. And his character is nice: he is humble, he talks to everyone, he is always in good will, a happy kid. No wonder that famous LA Times journalist Frei wrote that after Wayne Gretzky no other Kings player was more popular that Anze” says his father. He also says that he really didn’t expect such great success of his son. “What is happening to Anze is something special. I knew he could succeed but not so fast and so big. After just a few weeks and 20, 30 games in the best hockey league in the world Anze is one of the most reliable, most popular and most dangerous players for his opponents.”
He says that (of course) he is scared that Anze may be injured but since he has a great vision in game it’s hard for opponents to hit him. “Power, technical skills and vision in game are his best qualities.”
At the end we can say that Anze is still a humble Slovenian boy. When Kings Management organised a New Year’s party for team representatives, players and their family members Anze left early. He went straight to the locker room, put on his number 11 jersey and appeared – to the astonishment of the coaches, parents and 14 year’s old boys from junior team – on the ice. And player with number 11 played with them and enjoyed every minute of it.
And when his grandmother talks to him on the phone, Anze doesn’t forget to tell her: “Don’t worry, I brush my teeth every day…”
January 9th, 2007, 01:59 PM #2
January 9th, 2007, 02:24 PM #3
January 9th, 2007, 02:55 PM #4
January 9th, 2007, 03:21 PM #5
January 9th, 2007, 04:13 PM #6
January 9th, 2007, 08:52 PM #7
January 10th, 2007, 09:13 AM #8
Waiver Wire Pick-up
We are blessed. God help us from screwing this up.
January 10th, 2007, 10:53 PM #9
Thank you for the article!
January 16th, 2007, 03:52 PM #10
Enjoyed every word of that. Thanks RR