Kopitar reflects on Olympic experience
On his Olympic experience:
It was obviously very positive. For me, personally, and most importantly for the team, I think we did really well. We opened up some eyes to the hockey world, I guess, and it was a lot of fun.
On being sick during the game against the United States:
Yeah, it was just something with the food. It didn’t sit well in my stomach. It had to come out in a certain way, and it did. [Reporter: Was it borscht? What did you have over there?] The food was good. It just must have been something I ate and couldn’t digest, so, again, it came out.
On whether expectations were met and exceeded:
Yeah, it was definitely exceeded. I don’t think anybody from our team and our country thought that we were going to make it to the quarterfinals. But we felt good. The first game against Russia, I think we were a little bit star struck, and the guys, including myself, we weren’t used to playing the big venues like the Olympics is. So they came out, they scored a couple early goals, but after that, I thought we did pretty well against them. The next game against Slovakia, that was the game we circled on our calendar when the schedule came out and we were thinking to maybe grab a point or stir the pot, but we ended up beating them pretty good, so it was a big accomplishment.
On whether it was “weird” facing Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick:
Well, Quickie didn’t play, and he wasn’t even on the bench, so that was a little bummer, but Brownie was out there. It was a little bit weird at first, but as soon as you step on the ice, it doesn’t really matter who you’re playing against. You just want to do as best as you can.
On whether he paid particular attention to his Kings teammates:
It was great. Drew has done it two times in a row now. He’s used to that. They both did really well. It’s one of those things where you kind of follow them and you know them exactly – and Brownie and Quickie and Slava for that matter, too – so I thought they played really well.
On whether he wants NHL players to participate in four years:
I hope we can. It happens every four years. Yeah, the schedule is a little bit compressed and the travel’s not the greatest, but I think the NHL and the PA did a fantastic job of organizing everything – even accommodations for the families and for the family members and everybody. I guess I do hope we’re going to play again.
On how Slovenia benefits from the Olympics:
I mean, I would have been pretty upset if we qualified again and wouldn’t be able to go. This was the first time that we qualified and we were able to go, and it was a lot of fun, and you definitely want to do to it again as an athlete.
On any concerns of getting back into the “flow” of the NHL schedule:
I don’t know. I don’t have any concerns. I’ve been playing quite a bit over the break, too, I guess. We’ve done it before. All the guys are experienced enough that they’ve had breaks like that. Everybody personally knows what they have to do to get ready again.
On whether he was able to watch other Olympic events:
I couldn’t, because our schedule was so compressed. We played five games in seven days, so I couldn’t really do it. Even when we did play our games, they were mostly at noon, so it’s right in the middle of the day and you couldn’t do anything after, either. That was a little bit of a down side to that, but overall it was a great experience.
On what allows Slovenia to excel in the Olympics and professional sports, per capita:
I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I think we ended up with eight medals. I guess in percentage of population, we were the second-best country, so that’s pretty phenomenal for us. We’ve had some Olympic gold medalists in summer sports, too, so I don’t know what to tell you in that regard. It’s just good talent, I guess. [Reporter: Tina Maze – she was incredible out there on the slopes.] Yeah, well she’s been incredible the last couple of years. She’s been winning World Cups left and right, and she broke the record last year in total points in World Cups. That was pretty impressive. There’s really no surprise that she got the two golds.
On whether the bigger challenge is for players who did not participate in the Olympics or for those who will be returning from Sochi:
I don’t know. I mean, I guess I’ll find out. I’ve gotten enough time off in the last couple days where you get away from the rink a little bit and don’t have to gear up, and I guess refresh the mind a little bit. But I don’t think it really matters what you do if you play games or not. It’s just a matter of preparation and starting off again.
On what the Kings have to do to find success late in the season:
Just play our game. I mean, we were successful before, and we can be successful again. It’s a matter of doing the stuff that has made us successful, and we’ll go from there.
On where his goal against Slovakia ranks on the list of his highlight reel goals:
Yeah, I’d say it was a little bit nicer than the other one I scored. I’ve done it a couple of times before. But to score a goal in the Olympics, everybody wants to do that, and it was special.
On starting off the post-Olympic schedule with a back-to-back set:
Well, we’re not wasting any time. We started off the year with back-to-backs, too, and we’ve done it plenty of times before, coming off a little break like that. Again, it just comes down to preparation and getting it going again.
On whether Slovenia’s success at the Olympics will impact the country’s hockey awareness:
We hope so. We’ve got 150 registered players and seven rinks, so hopefully we can expand that base a little bit. I guess the last couple years some good stuff has been happening with us winning the Stanley Cup and people watching that back home, and the team qualifying for the Olympics, and now this result at the Olympics, so hopefully more and more kids are going to start playing, I guess.
On his father’s Olympic coaching success:
He took over that team – I think it was five years ago – and one of his main goals was to make the Olympics. Everybody thought he was borderline crazy when he set that goal. The players believed in that, but the outside world [was] kinds of [skeptical]. I think he shut ‘em up quite good, and he definitely did a lot for our hockey, and he’s going to continue doing that if he ends up being the coach again. I was very proud to see him stand behind the bench. [Reporter: Does he have aspirations, perhaps, for the NHL or anything like that?] I don’t think he’d turn it down if he got the offer, yeah. I don’t know if he’s got any offers or not.
On his response to the argument that the Olympics negatively impact club teams through injuries:
Well, it’s not like we want to get injured at the Olympics, either. I don’t know. It’s part of the game. You can block a shot in any game, you can block a shot in practice and you get injured…I think everybody obviously wants to play for their country on a stage like the Olympics.
On whether Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter will talk tash after they return:
Well they didn’t play us, so they can’t really give me [guff]. That’s about it. [Reporter: Speaking of practice, are you all right? It looked like you got bumped pretty good over there.] Yeah, I got the warm welcome from Cliffy. I’ll be fine.