Manor Anze Kopitar’s Success is Grounded in Family

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Kings coach Todd McLellan was singing the praises of Anze Kopitar even before Slovenia’s native son was his captain. Going back to his time in San Jose and Edmonton, McLellan had always shown tremendous respect for one of the game’s best 200-foot players. Now, nearly five full seasons into their time together in Los Angeles, the veteran coach still hasn’t run out of words when describing what LA’s 2005 first round selection means to the organization and the type of person that he is.

“Winner,” was the shortest answer McLellan gave all day when talking about Kopitar in advance of the team’s planned pre-game celebration on Wednesday night. “They do what they need to do for the group, the organization, and the community. It’s not always about themselves. The more you give, the more you get. Kopi has given a lot to his teammates and to this team.”

Still producing at a high rate, even at the age of 36, Kopitar is on pace for back-to-back 74-point seasons. That’s the highest since his 92 points in 2017-18 earned him a Hart Trophy nomination as the league’s Most Valuable Player.

“He’s an incredible human being and an unreal hockey player,” McLellan declared. “I believe, as a captain, you have to be an extension of the organization,” McLellan explained. “Not just the coaching staff, you have to buy into what’s going on around you. Then you have to take that, believe in it, and share it with the players. It could be anybody, from Adrian Kempe to Drew Doughty — somebody that’s been around them for a long time — that will come up with a question at some moment, maybe have a bit of doubt. For me, Kopi’s been able to sell what we’ve been trying to do … He’s been a real good salesman of ours.”


KOPITAR’S FAVORITE F-WORDS​


Everything for Kopitar starts with family, it always has.

Even as a young player in Europe, he was developed on and off the ice by the same man, his dad Matjaz. Equally important to Kopitar are his mother Mateja and brother Gasper, all three will be in attendance to share in Wednesday night’s special tribute. Right alongside of them will be Anze’s wife Ines and their two children.

“He has a really good hockey mind,” Kopitar said of his father, a well accomplished coach and scout in his own right. “He speaks his mind too, which sometimes is not pleasant to hear. [laughter] But, he’s been there all along; the whole family was. It’s obviously very nice to have a support system like that, one that you can lean on and sometimes whine about stuff, but they set you straight. That’s why they’re there. He knows a good moment to give me a kick in the [butt] or a good moment to just listen and for me to let it out. It’s obviously a blessing for me to have.”

Next to family comes friendships. Having played together for over 1,000 games, it’s no surprise that Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty are two of the names that readily come up during having conversations with Kopitar.

Now retired, Brown has returned to LA this week to see his former teammate be recognized for a series of accomplishments, including passing him for the most games played in a Kings jersey. Brown wouldn’t dare miss the opportunity to help celebrate his longtime teammate and the man he’s often referred to as his brother.

“It’s always nice to have him around,” Kopitar said with more of a smile than he usually displays. “He brings his goofiness, the jokes, and everything else; [he] just lightens the mood a little bit.”

On Tuesday, Kopitar also openly expressed how nice it is to have Brown back in town for a few days given the team’s recent poor performance.

“There’s no secret that it’s been a little frustrating lately,” he said. “But having him around, it’s a good refresher.”

The other piece to that friendship triangle is also known to bring his own unique brand of fun to the party. Doughty knows how to light up a room with his hearty laugh, as well as bring plenty of excitement to the ice — just like he did the night before Kopitar’s big press conference, scoring the game-tying goal with only a few minutes remaining in regulation and then proceeding to celebrate with his typical youthful jubilance.

Of late, the two of them have been mentoring some of the Kings younger players now over the past few seasons, and it’s something Kopitar does with great pride.

When discussing that aspect of the latest chapter in his storied career, Kopitar quickly referenced some of the names who helped the trio early on, giving credit to Matt Greene, Jarret Stoll, and Mike Richards, among others. Eventually, Kopitar talked about the “camaraderie” that comes with trying to pass information along to the next generation.

“Dewey tries to pass along the knowledge, I try to pass along knowledge and talk about stuff,” he remarked. “And I guess [we] really brainstorm too, because even for us being around for a little bit, we can still learn some stuff. If you pick the brains of those younger guys too, they might pop something in your head with what you can do better. It’s a two-way street. Yes, you want to mentor them and everything, but at the same time, they can show you some stuff too.”

Still learning, still leading.

Kopitar continues to be the model of consistency and professionalism.

Under contract for an additional two seasons, he will continue to give it everything he has, all in the hopes of adding three-time Stanley Cup Champion next to his eventual Hockey Hall of Fame plaque.

Oh, and he also slipped one more f-word into the conversation because if sharing is caring, Kopitar has plenty left to give.

“At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about,” said Kopitar, referencing his experiences and accomplishments with the Kings. “To share them with your teammates, with your family, with the fanbase. It’s a lot of excitement, it’s a very humbling feeling to be able to do it for this long and I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”

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