Timely family fortune for Kopitar in Sochi

Mon Dec 23, 2013 3:16pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - 'Slovenian synchronicity' describes the near-perfect scenario for center Anze Kopitar as he prepares for his country's ice hockey debut at next year's Winter Olympics with a huge dose of family pride.

Not only will National Hockey League (NHL) player Kopitar be spearheading his nation's bid for ice hockey glory in global sport's showpiece but he will do so with his father, Matjaz Kopitar, calling the shots as Slovenia's national team coach.

There is an outside chance that Anze's younger brother, 21-year-old Gasper, could also be in the 25-man squad for the February 7-23 Sochi Games, which would lift the whole notion of 'family fortunes' to heady heights for the Kopitar clan.

"That would be a cherry on top of the cream for sure," Kopitar, 26, grinned as he spoke to Reuters at the Los Angeles Kings' training facility in El Segundo after the NHL team had completed a practice session on the ice.

"Gasper's in the bigger picture (for Olympic selection). I don't know if he's going to make it or not but we will see. If he does make it, that's a whole lot better. With my father coaching the team, that will make it pretty sweet for sure.

"It's going to be exciting, and maybe even more so when we are all done playing and you are looking back over your best hockey moments and your whole career."

The mere fact that Slovenia have qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics is impressive enough.

The European nation has a population of only two million, with only 148 registered senior players, yet Slovenia upset more fancied Belarus and Denmark in a four-team qualifying tournament in February to book a spot in Sochi.   Continued...

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) reacts after he scored the winning goal past Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) in the shootout at Staples Center. The Kings won 3-2 in a shootout. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports