July 10th, 2009, 01:51 AM #1
Kopitar: Playing Hockey Out Of Love For The Game, Not Money (interview pt. 2)
This is the translation of second part of the Kopitar Slovenian interview (first part here).
Playing Hockey Out Of Love For The Game, Not For Money
Predicts first hat-trick at the start of October
July, 10th, 8:39, Kranjska Gora
Anze Kopitar, LA Kings first line center and best-paid Slovenian athlete remains committed to achieving success in the city that recognizes only winners.
The July training sessions in California are going to be the base of his preparation, which he will upgrade on Jesenice ice in August. Shortly thereafter, he will start his fourth season in hockey's highest quality league. The first Slovenian to play an NHL game remains true to himself and boldly predicts that a Stanley Cup contending generation of Kings is maturing in Los Angeles.
In the second part of the interview, conducted during his third in-line hockey camp in Kranjska Gora, the not-yet 22-year-old from Hrušica talks about life in the USA, the national team, Primož Kozmus' fight for athlete pensions and the importance of money in his life.
Q: When Canadians look at you and see your skill and size, they think that you should demolish everything around you. Are you ever going to be a physical player like Ryan Getzlaf or is your style closer to those of Joe Thornton and Pavel Datsyuk?
A: It's hard to say. Hockey is a fast game and you have to decide in less than a second, that's your instinct on ice. How you decide at that moment depends on the individual. I try to mix both styles into my game, but perhaps I am not as physical as some think I ought to be. That's just the kind of player I am.
Q: Coach Terry Murray brought about a change of system which is now more defensively oriented. On one hand, you're receiving praise for the progress you've made on your defensive game, on the other hand the plus-minus (which is more of a team stat) even dropped a little, to -17. What do you have to improve?
A: The plus-minus stat was worse, true. Perhaps I can say in my defense that there were a couple of empty netters scored on us in the last minute. I think I was focusing a lot more on defense than I had before, but that is going to make it that much easier to play this year. The point production dropped, which is only natural I think, because I was focusing on other things. I was shown how I really have to play last year. I hope I can connect both ends of my game and have a really good season.
Q: Since the shoot-out has arrived to the NHL, we've seen a lot of interesting and unusual shots, from yourself as well (Minnesota). How do you decide which shot to take? Do you practice it specifically? Who's the best player in this aspect?
A: I know Jussi Jokinen was the best by far during the first year, he scored 10 out of 13, which is truly unbelievable. Now there are a lot of talented players who have creative ideas and score a lot. Personally I practice the shots I think I'm going to take in-game every once in a while in training sessions. In the end, though, you just shuffle something together while driving towards the net.
Q: The interest for the NHL has grown tremendously in Slovenia, people rush to check out results every morning after a Kings game. Can you help us poor journalists who have to come up with 82 different report titles a year?
A: I couldn't do that, you're the professionals. I'll try to play as well as possible, so that you can write many positive-sounding titles.
Q: For a while now we've had this title ready - Kopitar Scores First Kingly Hat-Trick. When are we going to be able to use it?
A: I hope sometime at the start of October. I was close a couple of times already, scoring two goals, then having a few shots for the hat-trick. Maybe it wasn't meant to be, I hope I can get there as soon as possible.
Q: The play-offs - how badly do you want it, what are you prepared to do to get there?
A: All 30 teams want to get into the play-offs. We all know how fierce the competition in the NHL is, all the players are very good and have the same goal. You have to show consistent play throughout the entire season. I think we showed last year that we can play quality hockey with a young team. We need more experience and put up a 40-win plus season to get into the play-offs.
Q: Where do you see the Kings and yourself in 5 years? Contending for the title?
A: If I'm completely honest, I have to say I can see us contending for the title a bit sooner than that. We've been putting the team together for 3 years now according to the plans of our management, and now the pieces are together. This team will now grow together and I hope to play in the Stanley Cup finals and win a cup sooner than in five years.
Q: LAK are quite far from the NHL spotlight (with the exception of the Wayne Gretzky era and the 1993 Finals). 42 years without a Cup - what does it take to change that?
A: It's about the mentality of the city. Los Angeles is a city where there's a lot of interesting things going on, but the players have to be concentrated solely on a single one. The team has to play 82 games as consistently as possible, win as much as possible. The play-offs are an entirely different story, which we've seen many times already, recently this year when Anaheim beat San Jose. In the play-offs you have to turn a new leaf and write a new chapter of that season.
Q: You have a very determined and interesting General Manager, Dean Lombardi, important management positions are held also by Ron Hextall and Luc Robitaille, who has just been accepted into the NHL Hall of Fame. What is the hierarchy within the organization, where is the most support coming from?
A: Everyone in the organization is extremely supportive, from all the coaches to Mr. Lombardi, Mr. Hextall and Mr. Robitaille. They've all been in the NHL and the sport for a very long time and they know their business. Luc has won a Cup, Hextall was a great goalie and several times close to a title, so he knows what it takes for a team to go all the way. I think we have all the necessary ingredients to make it, we just have to mix them properly now and play well.
Q: Have you met Phillip Anschutz, the owner of the AEG group and your team? How involved is he?
A: Yes, I have. He is the owner, occasionally he attends our games. He does not maintain a lot of direct contact with us, but he visits us occasionally to greet us and introduce himself to the new guys. He is very ambitious and interested in hockey and can't wait for us to make it to the play-offs and play as well as we can.
Q: Los Angeles is a basketball and a baseball town, hockey players are not as publicly known. It all revolves around the Lakers and the Dodgers, how does that make you feel?
A: LA is a city that cares about winners and when you win, a lot of people are behind you. In LA we have a wide base of great fans, people come to our games to support us. I think when we start winning and making the play-offs, and later, when we win the Stanley Cup, we'll be on par with the Lakers and the Dodgers. This is a new task that we need to accomplish.
Q: Your family and your girlfriend Ines have moved to California to be with you, you'll be staying there for a long time. Are you all remaining together or are some of you parting ways?
A: We're going to remain together, except for Gasper, who is leaving for Portland to play in the Western Hockey League (WHL). So he's leaving, but the rest of us are staying together.
Q: What are the advantages of living in Los Angeles compared to back home?
A: The weather, the climate is great, no cold at all. If you have your family and your girlfriend there, you have everything you need. The schedule is very busy, so you don't have much of a normal life. You have to adjust and just live with it.
Q: Many successful players have remained in the USA after concluding their career. Do you ever think that far ahead?
A: I've already said that if it was all over right now, I'd definitely come back. However, what will happen in 20 years is very difficult to predict.
Q: How are things with Slovenia? Are you monitoring the hockey situation in the homeland? The construction of the ice hall in Jesenice? The conclusion of the national championships?
A: About the hall, I don't think anything new has been done since the last time I was there. I'm familiar with everything I can follow via the Internet. Jesenice I follow a bit more closely than Olimpija, they're my native club after all.
Q: Is there any desire on your part to play for the Jesenice senior team one day?
A: It's too early to talk about that. It depends on the situation, my strength, the condition of my body. Maybe I'll develop such a desire later, because I've never played for the Jesenice team.
Q: You have not attended the last World Championships. Some people have accused you of keeping your nose too high in the air, but in reality the Federation did not carry out all its duties with regards to you and your father. What was going on? Does the door to your playing for the national team remain open?
A: From my side the door is always open. Whoever was talking about my attitude did not know about everything that was going on and it is not my intention to reveal it here and now. It just wasn't possible physically and time-wise. The Championships started on the same day that I had my last NHL game. There's the 10-hour timezone difference, besides I still had obligations to LA afterwards with tests and meetings. People can calculate for themselves how it would be with my jet lag adjustment and exhaustion after 82 games and judge whether I was keeping my nose in the air or was it simply not possible.
Q: Your NHL retirement fund is assured, but in Slovenia Primož Kozmus is fighting for athlete pensions. What is your view on this issue?
A: I'm not sure how to comment that. If I'm honest, to me money doesn't mean much of anything right now. I play hockey because I love it, not to make money. It's normal to me that this is probably going to be the only income I'm ever going to receive. I love hockey, I'm sure Primož loves hammer throw, too. Maybe it's unfair that certain sports are better organized than track and field athletics. That's how it is in this life, we can't always get what we want. I wish Primož all the best and hopefully he can resolve the situation properly.
Q: Your personal goal for this summer and the off-season preparations?
A: To prepare myself as well as possible, to be as strong and as physically stable for the upcoming season. We'll see if I'm successful after the end of the season.
July 10th, 2009, 01:51 AM #2
Anze Kopitar will be receiving 6.8 million dollars on average in the next seven seasons.
"Money does not mean much of anything to me at this point in my life. I play hockey because I love it, not to make money." - Anze Kopitar on money
His contract does not forbid other sporting activities, but he mostly avoids them for fear of injury.
Table tennis is a popular form of relaxation in the Kings locker room, Anze is in the Top 5 according to his own words. In the last two months he has also taken up golf.
Kopitar has been using Easton sticks for a while now. At first he was using the Drury curvature, which he later adjusted, so he has a completely own model now.
Kopi is considered a very good penalty shot taker. He can impress with an unusual shot.
Kopi became an assistant to the Captain Dustin Brown before last season. The other assistant captain is defenseman Matt Green.
Los Angeles made it through the second round of play-offs only once in their 42-year history. The campaign of Wayne Gretzky and teammates was stopped by Montreal in the 1993 Finals.
The Lakers won most of the LA sports fans attention this year by winning the NBA Championships.
The graffiti bearing his image started appearing around LA shortly after Anze Kopitar started to play well.
Acroni Jesenice will play in the Ebel league this year as well.
Primoz Kozmus - only a handful of Slovenian athletes have won an Olympic Gold Medalist title.
July 10th, 2009, 01:56 AM #3
Oh sure, now that he's making $6.8M over the next seven years he says that.
Originally Posted by GoalCall
July 10th, 2009, 03:02 AM #4
I love Kopi !!
I hope he retires a King !
July 10th, 2009, 03:07 AM #5
You just jinxed it
Originally Posted by KINGSFAN1
July 10th, 2009, 05:01 AM #6
anybody know when gasper will be eligible for the entry draft? I remember in an interview a long time ago anze said his brother was better than him.
DO IT DEANO.ftw
July 10th, 2009, 06:40 AM #7
I've added the photo caption translations as well.
Since there's a lot of talk about Primoz Kozmus at the end of the interview, here's a note: Primoz Kozmus is the Beijing 2008 Olympic Champion in hammer throw from Slovenia. Since then, he has been fighting a likely losing battle with the state authorities to form a state-sponsored pension fund for top athletes, from which they would be compensated monthly after their careers come to a close.
July 10th, 2009, 07:57 AM #8
Brian Burke would flip Deano the bird as he selected Anzes brother in the draft.
Originally Posted by LosingSand
July 10th, 2009, 08:35 AM #9
This interviewer sure is concerned with the distant future. Do you want to play for the senior team? When you're done, are you staying in LA or coming back? Dude, that several years away. Slow down!
July 10th, 2009, 09:28 AM #10
Originally Posted by GoalCall