Anze Kopitar’s father, Matjaz, has joined the Kings in what is his third father’s trip with the team.
“I’m an old veteran already here,” he said.
As a retired player and the current coach of the Slovenian national hockey team, Matjaz is able to offer an interesting, discerning evaluation on the play of Anze – which he’ll be relying heavily upon once the 2014 Winter Olympics are underway. Following the Kings’ practice at the SAP Center on Tuesday, I chatted with Matjaz about the Vancouver game, as well as his expectations once Slovenia arrives in Sochi and is placed in a pool with the United States, Slovakia, and hosts Russia.
On aspects of Anze’s game as a youth that he still sees in the now-26-year-old:
I think there’s still passion. I think he still loves the game the same as he did when he was young. That’s what makes him successful, because I think you need to love the game if you want to be successful. I think that’s probably the thing.
On his immediate reaction to Anze’s overtime game-winner in Vancouver:
I was actually happy because they won the game, because Vancouver is always a tough opponent. It’s kind of a rivalry…since I’ve followed this team. When he scored, it’s OK, it’s nice. I’m not going to say that I was without any nice feelings, but like I said, the most important is to win the game, no matter who scores.
On his message to the Slovenian team come February:
It’s tough. The top 12 teams in the world, with all NHLers – that’s going to be a really great experience for all our boys. They have a big respect, of course, but I think we can be competitive if we’re going to be at our top level, because I’ve said many times already [that] we need to give more than a hundred percent to be competitive against these teams. I’m sure the boys will, because this is the biggest stage for them, anyway.
On opening the Olympic Tournament against Russia:
I’m sure the boys are going to have big eyes, of course. It’s going to be a full house, opening night against the home team. It’s going to be something special for sure, but we have our plans already, and we’re going to try and do our best.
On how he plans on using Anze:
Oh, he’s going to play in a lot of situations. So that’s not a secret. A lot of power play, penalty kill, helping out the team, leadership. I think because they are good friends, no matter that he is the star, the boys, they follow him always. They’re going to be competitive, I can say that.
On the level of excitement for the Olympic tournament back home: