TRENCIN, Slovakia -- Playing for Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t always easy for Tomas Kopecky.
Like a lot of players who have been coached by Quenneville, Kopecky experienced times when he was in Quenneville’s good graces and played significant minutes and other times where he watched most of the game from the bench. Now 33 years old and having gone through a variety coaches in his 10-year NHL career, Kopecky has come to possess a greater appreciation for Quenneville.
“It’s a tough place to play in, but Joel was the best coach when he saw something or he felt something,” Kopecky said recently while attending Marian Hossa's Stanley Cup party in Trencin, Slovakia. “When the lines weren’t clicking, he would change the stuff even during the game and he would mix up the lines. I think as a player you always want an opportunity. You always want to be on top of your game and have a better chance to play more on a power play or something. That’s what kept driving me.
“I think for me he was the best coach I ever had. He pushed my buttons, but he pushed them the way they’re supposed to be. Like you weren’t playing good, you’re not going to be playing. If you played good, you deserved more ice time, you played. I think that’s the way it should be.”
Kopecky fondly remembers a lot about his two seasons with the Blackhawks. He liked Quenneville. He won one of his two Stanley Cups. He enjoyed watching Chicago embrace the Blackhawks.
Kopecky, an unrestricted free agent, is still looking for a team for next season.
“As of right now, I’m getting closer to the end of my career,” said Kopecky, who had two goals, six assists and averaged 12:54 of ice time in 64 games for the Florida Panthers last season. “I’m 33. I want to have that feeling again. I would like to go to the team that is a Cup contender, obviously a hockey town.
“My first year in Chicago in 2010... it was unbelievable to see the city [49 years after winning its last Stanley Cup]. It was amazing to see the whole city, how close they got. Everywhere you looked, you went to the restaurant, you went to the parking lot, you know, anywhere, there’s always people wearing either hats or shirts. To see how the city gets close together, they stayed tight. That’s the feeling hockey players play for.”
It’s for those reasons Kopecky would be interested in re-joining the Blackhawks if they ever came calling again.
“Definitely,” he said “That’s one of the best spots for hockey and one of the best two years I had in my career was in Chicago. It’s a top-notch organization and they treat players well. The coaching staff is obviously one of the best in the league.”