Kopitar interview in Večer newspaper
Interview with Kopi was <a href="http://www.vecer.si/vecer2007a/default.asp?kaj=3&id=2007030505180342">in newspaper Večer</a> some ten days ago. I’ve noticed it only now… Here is the translation.
Anže Kopitar, teenager from Jesenice became a hockey star in USA
From LA Kings training facility at El Segundo to Anže Kopitar's home in Hermosa Beach is just a short way. He is there in few minutes with his SUV. And only few minutes were needed and a new hockey star was born. With two goals in his first NHL game he persuaded a lot of people. From then on the majority of LA hockey fans can't imagine their team without the player with number 11 on his back. If someone would tell this to Anže one year ago when he was playing in Sweden and dreaming about NHL…
»I would think it's a kind of joke. I've surprised even myself. It helped me that I scored on my first game. When I was playing in youth championships I always needed a quick goal for my confidence. When I scored my second goal in Anaheim something has changed inside me. I said to myself: Finally I'm here. I play among the best in the world. And I've already scored two goals. Hey I obviously belong here.«
But it didn't go without some fear. Rookies are often targets of hockey players with brutal style of play. They show to the youngsters what they can expect in NHL.
»Of course I was afraid a bit. I was saying to myself this is just an ordinary game as all other games. But when it was time for me to step on the ice my heart started to bang like crazy. But after few shifts I saw that NHL isn't such a miracle as I thought. Nothing that I wasn't capable of anyway.«
Americans like to act a bit crazy when they meet famous people. You probably meet some fans on the streets.
»Yeah they often recognize me, we shake hands, they ask for autographs and usually explain how big fans they are and that they watch all games live. Nothing crazy. Well girls like to go little mad sometimes. But I must behave and be good. Because I have girlfriend in Slovenia, her name is Ines.«
You were told about all the “tricks” when you became a member of NHL elite. Also about girls…
»Representatives of Hockey players Union organized a meeting for NHL players and they warned us about different tricks. They said that danger is present 24 hours a day – from credit cards fraud to women, who want to seduce players because of their money. They’ve told us stories like how they try to get pregnant and be finantialy secured. They use needles to make holes in condom box. And then something “new” can appear. In general hockey players have to be careful. As celebrities we can easily end on a cover of some yellow magazine.”
So Californian night life is out of the question?
»I'm too young for night clubs anyway. You have to show identity card at the entrance and if you’re not 21 years old you just have to turn away and go. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a King or Anže Kopitar. Lakers players have probably more privileges. But I’m not complaining at all. LA night life can’t “grab” me in this way. I’m in a way lucky because I need a lot of sleep.”
So quiet Hermosa Beach on outskirts of LA is ideal for you? Have you been in any other less beautiful parts of the city?
»No I don't drive around so much. I prefer to rest because trainings and games can be quite exausting. I live like in paradise with roommate Patrick O'Sullivan. Apartment is on the top level of a building with views on the ocean. Also other teammates live nearby and in Manhattan Beach apparently lives Maria Sharapova. Movies, some afternoon drink or dinner with teammates – that’s almost all about my non-hockey life.”
Series of goals and a hockey star status in a metropolis. Not bad for a boy who was helping in family restaurant in Hrušica not so long ago. And who’s grandmother in a way forced him to join professional hockey.
»Yeah, that was a turnover. Grandmum used to be professor and at first she was determined that I finish school. But a time for decision soon came – hockey or school. She said if both can’t be done then I must choose hockey. I was trying to study for exams two years ago when I returned from my first season in Sweden. But I was home for only a week and then went to World Youth Championship in Maribor. After a week I had to go again to the World Championship in Innsbruck, Austria. After two weeks I went to Toronto where I had tests for NHL. Two weeks later again back to Sweden. I would like to see if someone in that situation could study and learn something. On the other hand I’m not a person who could take books abroad and study in free time between hockey games.”
So what is your current education?
»I've finished two classes of Gymnasium in Radovljica. I have no idea when I’ll start with the third one.”
Maybe money can be some kind of relief for lost years in school. You’ll earn 850.000 $ in your first season in NHL.
»It sounds a lot. But California takes 49% of that for taxes, 6 % takes my manager. At the end the sum is not so big. I pay for my rent and other expenses, a lot goes for telephone calls. I talk regular with my family, girlfriend and best friend who was also my school mate. He was sending me school material to Sweden by e-mail so I could study there.”
Two of your friends from home were responsible for Slovenian polka in Staples Center a week ago.
»That was crazy, wasn't it? They tried to persuade DJ that this is one of the most played songs of all times and written in Guinness book of records. And that The Beatles are nothing compared to it. And he gave up. They wanted that he play the song after Kings goals like in Jesenice. But that would be probably too much.«
Does your family think about moving to LA?
»Decision has not been taken yet. It would mean a lot to me but I don’t have any problems if I’m on my own. I’m used to be alone – for 3 years now. Sometimes when they’re around me I feel strange because of the supervision. I’m not saying that’s a negative thing but it’s quite unusual.”
Father Matjaž who’s Jesenice coach probably couldn't survive without hockey. And younger brother the same. King’s fans say that if he’s half as good as Anže he is welcome.
»Dad could find some job in hockey, brother Gašper also. He’s 14 years old and very promising hockey player, he just needs to improve his skating and maybe he’ll also be big some day. I mustn’t forget mum Mateja. She doesn’t miss a game we play. If not on TV she listens to the radio on the internet.”
And you? Do you follow dad's coaching in Austrian EBEL league?
»Of course. People expected that Jesenice will be underdog in Austrian league. But I knew that they can end very high. I was practicing with them during the summer and saw that they’re a very good team. Almost all our national team players are members of this team.”
Will you be the only great hockey player from Jesenice who didn't play for this team?
»I played two games for them, not in national league but in international one. They thought I was too young at the time so I went to Sweden. I hope I wont play for them for at least 15 years. I hope to have a job in NHL for 15 years.«
While American national anthem is played (or sung) in Staples Center all the players usually sing and look at the flag. Your eyes on the other hand are closed or you look on the ice with your head down.
“This is just a part of my ritual before each game. A way to concentrate. I think about my moves from the last games and try to remember goals that I’ve scored.”
I’m saying this in case if patriotic Americans could say that you're not respectful enough toward their national symbols.
»I sing sometimes. Besides I look at the flag on the ceiling at least once.«
Jack Nicholson is almost at every Lakers game. Who is the biggest hockey fan among so many LA movie stars?
»Cuba Gooding jr. is crazy about hockey. We became quite good friends although our first meeting was kind of funny. After my first game for the Kings he came in the locker room, gave me his hand and said some great things about my play. I was acting like I knew who he was, said thanks to him and things like that. When he turned around I asked teammates who is that man. I didn’t know that he is so famous. He is a member of older generation of movie stars and I’m more familiar with the younger one.”
Did anyone tell you what is the main Kings rule? Don't walk on the Kings logo in the middle of the locker room?
»Yeah, if you step on the crown it's like blasphemy. The first time you do it you must pay 100 $. Second time 200 $. And it goes on like that. This is one of non written rules. Like when we play away games. Lunch in hotel is reserved for the veterans. And when they finish we younger players can eat what they left: usually cold food.«
When we talk about the food – you're trying to reduce one of your habits because you just can't stop it.
»Yeah I should reduce the amount of sweets that I eat. I'm crazy about chocolate and ice cream and I eat them every day. This shows on my weight from time to time. Although it’s hard I try to spend a day or two without sweets.«
Also travels to other parts of North America aren't among your favorite things.
»Time difference between east and west coast is a big problem for me. I usually go to sleep at one in the morning. And it shows the next day. But I have dark circles under my eyes anyway even if I sleep for 10 hours. I don't know why I think it's something with genetics.«
Teammates and fans stopped calling you Angie, but you're still Koupitar for them.
»I'm Anžej, they add j on my name. I'll probably stay Koupitar. Coach often asks me how exactly has to pronounce my name & surname. Maybe he'll learn some day. For the majority I'm simply Kopi and that’s okay.«
Have you discovered already who's the author of Anze graffiti in LA?
»I've seen the graffiti only on internet. I don't know where they are situated or who is the author. But it feels good when you're popular with the fans. And I’m glad if I notice someone with number 11 jersey and Kopitar on the top of it. This is a sign that I'm quite attractive on the ice. For American hockey fans victory is not enough, they want to enjoy the moves during games.«
You're very popular also at home.
»I've noticed my regular presence in the media. I hope our hockey will benefit from that. We must put Slovenia on a hockey map now that some Americans realized that we exist. If we could return to group A of world hockey it would be great.«
When we talked about B World Hockey Championship in Ljubljana some time ago our legendary goalie Tone Gale said that he doesn't envy you. Because people will expect a goal every time you'll be on the ice. If not, everything will be wrong.
»On one hand I can't wait to play at home. No way that I'll avoid playing and talk about how tired I am. Should I watch teammates from the bench? No, I’ll play. When will I be able to hold on a hard schedule like this if not now that I’m only 19? I’m aware that some people will just look for mistakes and wait to say bad things about my play. I hope that they will not turn against me if I’ll not have my day.”
Americans will most likely want high insurance because you’ll play at this Championship. Could this prevent you from play?
»I hope not. It will be an agreement between our national hockey union and the Kings. I hope that I'll come home after my last game for Kings in this season - a week before the Championship. But only if Kings allow me to do. I don't want to take any chances with the Kings and ruin my career.«