After earning his 998th and 999th points on Monday, Anze Kopitar notched his 1,000th-career point as the LA Kings won their second-straight game in Arizona.
He didn’t have to wait long to hit the milestone. Just one game after notching his 998th and 999th career points, Anze Kopitar hit the 1,000-point plateau on Wednesday night, assisting on a Sean Walker empty-netter to put a period on a hard-fought 4-2 victory for the LA Kings in Arizona.
On a night that also saw Quinton Byfield earn his first-career NHL point, Gabe Vilardi register his first multi-point game, and the Kings earn their first winning streak since February, Anze Kopitar’s milestone was front-and-center on this night.
Following the game, an elated Kopitar spoke with the media about his achievement.
“I mean, obviously, the excitement and being thankful, obviously for a lot of reasons,” Kopitar said. “Thankful for my family. My parents, my grandparents, my wife Ines, my kiddos for giving me energy, my brother to keep me in check. Thankful [to] everybody along in my hockey career from the first coach to Todd [McLellan] right now and, you know, I guess Dave Taylor for drafting me and giving me this opportunity. I can go on and on; obviously Mr. A (Kings’ owner Philip Anschutz) for keeping me around all these years. So, it’s a long list, so I just want to thank everybody at the same time.”
While players in the past needed a few tries to reach certain milestones, Kopitar was fortunate enough not to have to wait too long to reach his. He was asked about his emotions earlier in the day and how he was feeling arriving at Glendale’s Gila River Arena in preparation for tonight’s game.
“It’s definitely exciting-slash-nervewracking a little bit,” added the Kings captain. “I caught myself thinking a few too many times about it and, you know, I told myself to kind of relax a little bit, just to play and let it happen when it happens.”
When he broke into the league as a rookie in 2006, Kopitar didn’t know much about Los Angeles. Legendary Los Angeles Times journalist Helene Elliott reminded the 33-year-old of this following Wednesday’s contest. The Hall-of-Fame writer then asked the Kings captain how hard it was to imagine going from a rookie unfamiliar with the City of Angels to calling it home after all these years.
“It was very hard to imagine,” Kopitar responded without hesitation. “Being a kid, you always have a dream, right, to make it to the NHL, and to win the Stanley Cup, and to have a long career, and successful career. So, for me, it was almost a little bit naive to think that, but I guess now, 15 years later, you know, being in a position– again, it’s exciting, very humble. Being thankful comes to mind.”
Before he could continue, however, Kopitar was admittedly remiss for leaving some people out of his initial testimonial.
“I forgot to thank all of my teammates, which [is] probably not the best idea,” he said with a chuckle. “But I’m very thankful for the guys, obviously, that played with me and, obviously, being a part of my success and our success as a team.”
Following Wednesday’s victory, the Kings’ aforementioned head coach had some kind things to say about No. 11 and his historic evening.
“It’s incredible for him,” McLellan noted. “You know, we’re along for the ride. I’m certainly proud of him, but I’m honored to be able to coach him. It’s a pleasure to have that type of person around your locker room on a daily basis. He makes everybody better, including the coaching staff and his passion and energy for the game is contagious.”
With his milestone now achieved, Anze Kopitar becomes just the fourth player in LA Kings history to collect 1000 points with the franchise, joining Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitaille, and the aforementioned Dave Taylor. He is also the 91st player in NHL history to accomplish the feat, the only active player drafted lower than second-overall and just the third player in league history to hit 1000 points and win two Selke Trophies, joining Rod Brind’Amour and Sergei Fedorov.
While there wasn’t much doubt before, Anze Kopitar’s entrance into the 1000-point club will give him a great shot of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, especially when it only took 1,124 games to reach the prestigious plateau.
For a decade-and-a-half, Anze Kopitar has consistently proven why he is the heart and soul of the LA Kings. Wednesday night’s achievement only further solidifies this, even if reaching the plateau wasn’t necessarily mandatory for such recognition.
So, regardless if it’s literal or figurative, let us all raise a glass to the LA Kings’ great No. 11.
Congratulations to Mr. Anze Kopitar. This one’s for you, Captain.