Manor Kopitar’s New Friendship Formula


They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
Staff member

Anze Kopitar’s top skating speed is 21.45 mph. His shot can hit 97.57 mph. Yet he still has a much greater need for speed.

In his quest to find things even faster — say, like 220 mph – the NHL veteran of over 1,300 games has found himself binge watching “Drive to Survive,” a Netflix documentary-style series that follows Formula 1, the global auto racing circuit.

And during Season 4, his two worlds collided.

Mixed among all the drama and intensity surrounding a myriad of open-wheel racing teams, Kopitar saw something very familiar, yet unexpected, on his screen.

“I was watching the TV show and I saw Zak playing hockey,” said Kopitar, referring to Zak Brown, Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Racing.

For those unfamiliar, McLaren is a name synonymous with both Formula 1 and the U.S.-based Indy Car Series.

Intrigued by the sight of somebody from that other world playing hockey, Kopitar quickly grabbed his phone.

“I figured I’d reach out,” he said in a still rather excited tone.

What happened next was even more surprising than seeing the winding asphalt of race tracks give way to sticks and pucks on the ice.

“I didn’t do any of my homework, whatsoever,” Kopitar admitted, followed by a bit of an embarrassing chuckle. “I didn’t realize that he grew up in the Valley, he’s actually an LA boy. I just slid into his DMs and said, ‘If you’re ever in LA, I’d love to host you for a game.’ A couple days went by and he fired back that he’s actually a big Kings fan — from the Dionne, Robitaille, and Taylor days. So, we established a connection right away.”

It didn’t take Brown long to jump at an opportunity to connect with a player of Kopitar’s stature.

“It was really cool that he reached out,” Brown told Mayor’s Manor. “I’m fortunate, being in the role that I’m in, to meet lots of interesting and exciting people. I’ve always been a hockey and baseball fan. So, some people catch my attention more than others. My love for those sports starts with the Kings and the Cardinals. It goes deeper than that, of course, but those are my two favorite teams. When he dropped me a note, I thought, ‘Oh this is really cool. So, yeah, I responded right when I saw it!”

Once the initial connection was made, it didn’t take long for things to escalate beyond a simple online conversation. When the Kings had their recent 10-day break, everything lined up perfectly on both sides.

“We stayed in touch and then he had an extra few days, so he came to visit us and go skiing [in Mammoth],” explained Kopitar.

“I’ve met a few of these living legends,” Brown continued. “For me, it’s a lot of fun to get to know them because I’m a massive fan of their sport. If you grow up around the sport watching these guys — obviously, I don’t mean Anze; age-wise, I’m older than him — but having a Kings player reach out is pretty cool and we hit it off. He and his wife Ines, what a great family they have. They came to Vegas and then we spent a wonderful weekend in the mountains, hanging out with the kids and had some friends over. We had tons and tons of laughs.”

Brown has continued to follow Kings hockey since his days of growing up in Southern California. For the better part of three decades now he’s lived in the United Kingdom, however that hasn’t kept him away from the sport he fell in love with as a child.

The scene in “Drive to Survive” shows Brown playing hockey at Alexandra Palace in London — Ally Pally to the locals. It’s part of a historic sports and entertainment complex that has seemingly hosted every major British rock act, from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to the Stone Roses.

We don’t know if their conversations ever veered off into music, but we know there were plenty of questions about the other guy’s respective sport.

“I asked him anything and everything you can possibly imagine,” Kopitar said while laughing. “I wanted to know how the drivers are, how the team dynamic works; because they’re a different type of team [than us], right? It’s a driver for himself on the track, with a team of [support people] working behind the scenes. Even though I’ve come to realize that that sport is very cutthroat, it’s fun to compare all the similarities and differences.”

Kopitar went on to mention how when he meets athletes from other stick and ball sports, he can instantly see the similar team aspects to hockey.

“This one is racing; it’s like completely out of our spectrum,” he continued. “So, it’s fun to listen to people from different sports and get that completely different perspective.”

From Brown’s point of view, he may have found the conversations to be slightly more relatable.

“Probably because I know more about hockey than he knows about racing, so to speak,” Brown surmised. “I’m glad that he picked up and recognized the team aspect [of Formula 1] through our conversations, though, because I very much see the crew as athletes. Like in hockey, where you can’t score unless you have a teammate who passes you the puck, and a coach who puts together a strategy; that’s what racing is. You have about a thousand people [behind the scenes], and you have to orchestrate it all. It’s like they’re all on the ice, in some different way; pit stops, etc. It’s about getting an entire team to work together to win. So, while everyone looks at the athlete — of course, in this case, the athlete is the driver — it’s not a total like-for-like. It’s probably a lot more like hockey than tennis, or even golf, where it’s one against one. Motor racing requires a thousand people, 150 of which are at the racetrack, and about 16-18 of which are in a pit stop. So, it’s very much a team sport and it’s interesting that he picked up on it.”

That was all well and good, talking about the present.

When things dipped into the past, that’s where Kopitar says he had to briefly tap out.

“We were reminiscing about some of the Kings teams when we were winning [Stanley Cups] and your typical stuff like that,” noted Kopitar. “He’s a big fan, but he still wants to learn more and more. We were getting pretty deep into it.”


“Well, there were a couple of times where I had to remind him that I came here in ’06,” Kopitar said with a sheepish smile and shrug of his shoulders.

“It’s funny,” Brown added. “I don’t think of myself as old, but I guess I’m getting there, I’m 52 now, so I’m a generation, a full decade and a half older than Anze. I just like the history of sports so much, especially growing up having watched the Kings with the Triple Crown of Dionne, Taylor, Simmer. Vachon was in net. It was great!”

For good measure, Brown has previously connected with several other NHL stars too. For example, Teemu Selanne recently sent him some signed game-used jerseys from his days in the league. Going back even further, he had a brief interaction with another former Kings player.

“I received a note one day from an investment guy,” began Brown. “He said, ‘By the way, I’m a former professional hockey player, you probably don’t know who I am, my name is Steve Duchesne.’ Of course I knew who Steve Duchesne is! He had no idea I was from LA or anything, though. Great guy and was a great player. In a million years, he was probably not thinking this guy at McLaren in England had any idea who he was. Funny thing is, I’ve seen Duchesne play hundreds and hundreds of games.”

Circling back to the present, it seems this new friendship may become Kopitar and Brown, Part II.

Eagar to get an up-close look at what his new friend’s world is all about, Kopitar says he’s going to try and get out to a race this summer.

“I think he has a passion for Formula 1,” said Brown. “He tells me he’s now a McLaren fan. He came clean over the weekend. He didn’t start out as a McLaren fan, but I appreciate the honesty.”

It’s just another point Brown can chirp Kopitar about the next time they see each other.

“His schedule is actually getting busy now with all the testing and stuff within the next few weeks, but I think he’s going to be around for the Long Beach Grand Prix [in April],” said Kopitar. “So, he might show up to one of the games depending on how his schedule works out.”

Little does the Kings captain know, it’s not nearly as tentative as he may think.

“I’m going to be there for the last game of the season!” Brown proudly declared. “I already got my tickets. I bought my wife and I glass seats. We’ll have a great view, and we’ll harass Anze a little bit!”

That’s a true hockey fan right there.


Follow @mayorNHL


Continue reading...