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Anže Kopitar and Tomaž Razingar Hockey Academy

The tradition of Slovenian ice hockey is a very long and rich one. It is one of the traditional sports in which our athletes have achieved exceptional results. The Slovenian ice hockey team has twice qualified for the Winter Olympics – it thrilled the audience in Sochi 2014 and again in PyeongChang 2018. This achievement is even more remarkable if we consider that Slovenia only has around 150 professional players.

 

Part of the Slovenian ice hockey fairy tale in Sochi 2014 was played by Anže Kopitar and Tomaž Razingar. Anže is undoubtedly the best Slovenian ice hockey player of all time, captain of the LA Kings team and a star player of this NHL franchise. Razingar has been the captain of the Slovenian national team for many years, and is the player with the highest number of appearances for the country. Kopitar and Razingar are also two old friends who joined their knowledge and forces in the Ice Hockey Academy, which they have been organising for young ice hockey players since 2016. Matjaž Kopitar, Anže’s father and coach, and the man behind the Slovenian national ice hockey team’s biggest successes, also contributes his expertise to the Academy.

While Anže Kopitar continues his career in the USA, Razingar is now a retired ice hockey player who found new challenges in the business sector. He said: “Towards the end of my ice hockey career I thought a lot about my life after my last game. I managed to take care of many things even before that happened; I’ve started a food service business and I rent apartments. But I could never completely write off ice hockey. It’s simply a part of me and it will always remain so; after all, I’ve dedicated a large part of my life to that particular sport. It seems right to me to share the experience and knowledge that I’ve gained in Slovenia and abroad with younger generations.”

Tomaž Razingar coaching young hockey player.

The Academy, aimed at athletes aged 7 to 16, is certainly very popular among young players, who see it as a great opportunity to learn from the NHL star player and the legend of Slovenian ice hockey. Amateur ice hockey players, whose number is increasing in recent years, also have a chance to improve their skills. Such players are well organised in clubs, and even have their own league.

The Ice Hockey Academy employs 16 coaches, mainly from Slovenia, in cooperation with experts from Canada, Finland and Austria. Since the Academy is held in Bled, there also are plenty of possibilities for the young participants to spend quality free time, from swimming in the lake to summer sledding and visiting an adrenaline park. Last year, the Academy’s special guests were the girls who play top-level ice hockey in Slovenia. Perhaps the knowledge and motivation they gained at the Academy helped them achieve one of the biggest successes yet seen in Slovenian women’s ice hockey, as they were promoted to a stronger division this year. The Academy is thus delighted to invite back again for more training.

Father and son: Matjaž (right) and Anže Kopitar

The Academy also invites special guests who always delight young players. Thus it has been visited by many famous faces from the Slovenian national ice hockey team, including Robert Kristan, Andrej Tavželj, David Rodman, Žiga Pavlin and Žiga Jeglič. The Academy also provides a separate programme for promising goalkeepers, which involves working with specialised goalkeeping coaches. In charge of this programme is Klemen Mohorič, the only Slovene who works as a coach in KHL, the second best ice hockey league in the world.

Most of the Academy participants come from Slovenia, but there are also lots of young players from Austria and Croatia and, to a lesser extent, from Serbia, Macedonia, Slovakia, Canada, the USA, Sweden, Belgium, Russia, and even from the United Arab Emirates and China.

There were some training camps when I was young, but it’s impossible to compare those with the opportunities that are available today. Training sites for young athletes are at a very high level now and, looking back, I would be very happy to have had the chance to get advice from an older and more experienced player when I was a kid,” added the now experienced and very successful Anže Kopitar.

Text by Polona Prešeren

Tomaž Razingar and Anže Kopitar.