Anze Kopitar – Fan Story
Anze Kopitar really is a huge star in Slovenia. No wonder, the guy was first Slovenian ever to become a part of any NHL team. And guess what – he won th NHL Stanley Cup, too. Even more – he was one of the best players in the play-offs, deciding game Nr.1 in overtime and leading the points list together with his Captain Dustin Brown.
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Anze Kopitar was something extraordinary right from the start. They say he was always the hardest working guy in his team back in Jesenice, Slovenia, where he learned his first hockey steps. He left his friends and family at 16 to learn some more about hockey in Sweden. And that’s a big step for a 16-year Slovenian boy, I can tell.
Scouts of Los Angeles Kings quickly discovered the unpolished Slovenian diamond in Sweden. Although many were skeptical about his abilities for playing in an NHL team – owners and coaching stuff in LA always believed in Kopitar. He was only 19 when he played his first game for Los Angeles Kings. And guess what – he scored right on the first game. They said in LA back in 2006 – they will build a team of Champions around Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Both guys are the only players left in the squad since then – and I simply have to say – guess what – they won the Stanley Cup this season!
Los Angeles is of course this whole another world for people in Slovenia. Did you know that the whole country’s population is only 2 millions? You can imagine how it is for a guy from small Slovenian town Hrusica (a village outside Jesenice, near Slovenian – Austrian – Italian triple border) to come to Los Angeles and play his hockey there. Well, kopitar obviously does it very well!
Fans in Slovenia went absolutely mad as this season’s play-offs progressed and as LA Kings remained in the competition – fans organized some public following of the final games. One has to be informed about the fact that the games were played at 2 a.m. Slovenian local time. That didn’t stop people to gather. When game Nr.5 was scheduled, so many fans announced their presence for public transmission of the game – organisers had to call the thing off.
There was too little time to organize the whole thing and there were too many people about to come. Security might have been questionable and in case of any riots it would sure be quite a risky thing to organize the public following. Anyway – demand for Los Angeles Kings accessories was so enormous even Kopitar’s family couldn’t secure enough fans merchandises for everybody.
However, Kopitar won the Stanley Cup and he was awaited at the airport when he returned to Slovenia by a large crowd. Crowd was even bigger when Anze showed in his home village; there was a rock concert, big stage and many of the guy’s former team players from his younger years in Jesenice.
The whole madness even expanded when Kopitar brought Stanley Cup to Slovenia. More than 3,000 people came to see the Cup, Kopitar and cheered the Champion’s name, when he appeared on the stage. Once again – a rock concert was held, people from NHL were present and some fans from various places from Slovenia arrived to shake hands with Kopitar. Also foreign languages and license plates could be heard and seen – I’m talking about people from Austria, Croatia and Hungary…
That’s what happens when a humble, polite and hardworking guy from a small nation wins the Stanley Cup.
I believe I share Kopitar’s wish – let’s hope he does it again. As many times as possible!