Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award on Wednesday, presented to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities on and off the ice and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey.
Kopitar has been at the forefront of helping promote hockey in Southern California, where the center has spent 16 seasons with the Kings since being selected No. 11 in the 2005 NHL Draft.
He has participated in several community programs for the Kings, including the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Make a Wish Foundation, Wags and Walks and the Kings Care Foundation and was voted by teammates as the Ace Bailey Memorial Award winner (most inspirational player) each of the past two seasons.
“We’re all trying to grow the game. Between the LA Kings and myself I think we’ve done a really good job around here in SoCal, with the help of the Anaheim Ducks team,” Kopitar said in an interview with Messier after he was announced as the winner. “Just getting the game spread apart here in SoCal, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”
In addition to helping to promote hockey in Southern California, Kopitar hosts a youth clinic in his home country of Slovenia. Last year, more than a dozen countries were represented.
“Even for myself back home, I’ve been able to host a hockey academy for a number of years now and I’m pretty proud of that one,” Kopitar said. “We’ve covered quite a few countries. The word is spreading. I think last year we covered all together 13 countries, so the kids are coming and wanting to learn and wanting to start up with hockey and I’m very thankful to be a part of the hockey community. It’s given me so much. Being very humbled and honored just to be around the game of hockey. It’s been great.”
Video: Anze Kopitar wins Mark Messier Leadership Award
Kopitar led the Kings in scoring with 67 points (19 goals, 48 assists) in 81 games this season to help Los Angeles qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2018. He has led them in scoring in 14 of the past 15 seasons. He and Gordie Howe are the only players to lead the same team in scoring at least 14 times.
Kopitar is second in Kings history in games (1,210) and assists (702), and fourth in points (1,067) and goals (365).
“Between [Kings president] Luc Robitaille and [general manager] Rob Blake, they’ve grown me into a better man than I was when I got here 16 years ago,” Kopitar said.
Messier, a Hockey Hall of Famer, solicits suggestions from team and League personnel to compile a list of candidates for the award before selecting a winner.
Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron won the award last season.
The NHL awards continue Thursday with the Jack Adams Award, which goes to the coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success” as voted on by members of the NHL’s Broadcaster Association. The finalists this year are Andrew Brunette of the Florida Panthers, Gerard Gallant of the New York Rangers and Darryl Sutter of the Calgary Flames.
The winner will be announced prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Final between the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche. The game starts at 8 p.m. ET.