A tanned, well-rested Andrew Copp admits he’s been making the best of a bad situation while riding out the NHL shutdown down in Florida for the past month.
Copp, 25, joined his snowbird parents and brother (who goes to college in nearby Georgia) down in the Sunshine State shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the professional sports world to a halt in mid-March. The versatile Winnipeg Jets forward has been staying active by playing tennis, golf, swimming, jogging, boating and fishing.
“This is easily the tannest I’ve ever been so pretty happy with my dedication to that thus far,” Copp joked Tuesday morning on a Zoom call with media.
“It’s probably the last time me and my brother will be able to spend a month straight with my parents. So just trying to enjoy that part of it. I have an aunt and uncle and cousins down here that actually live next door, so it’s nice to have a little bit of other social interaction outside of our immediate family. But we’re going through all the guidelines, following all the social distancing rules and all that. You start to go a little nuts, but I feel like I’m fortunate to have it about as good as you could ask for.”
The Michigan native was in the midst of arguably his best season, with 10 goals and 16 assists in 63 regular-season games. Copp has been moved up and down the lineup, skating with 11 different linemates while playing both centre and wing.
“I’m really happy with how I’ve handled a lot more of the extra responsibility, especially on the penalty kill, I feel like I’ve really taken a step forward in that department this season. I’ve been relied on heavily to do that. I feel like I was a big part of our turnaround, kind of after New Year’s, it felt like the PK was starting to play really well,” he said.
“I feel like I’ve had a pretty strong year. Defensively, I’m feeling really strong. Offensively, I feel like I’m a broken record but I just want to continue to grow in that aspect. I feel comfortable with where my game is headed and I want to continue to grow and grow and become the best player that I can be.”
To help the cause, the well-known student of the game has spent time going over film from the past season.
“This is the first time I’ve been off the ice for a month straight, maybe in the last five years. I think it’s important to try to stay mentally engaged and try to find a way… you’re not going to get better by staying off the ice, but try to find a way to keep your mind engaged and stay sharp. So when the time does come you feel like physically you’ve worked out enough to try and stay somewhat related to hockey shape, but at the same time your mind hasn’t just been wandering aimlessly for the last month,” he said.
“Obviously you want to take your time and your mental rest, but at the same time stay sharp and try to think about things that can make you a better hockey player going forward,” he said.
Copp was in the first year of a two-year deal received through contentious salary arbitration with the Jets last summer, which he admits left him with a big chip on his shoulder. He’s making $2.28 million and would appear to be in line for a big raise when he’s once again a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the summer of 2021.
Of course, the financial landscape of the NHL may have drastically changed by then, especially if this paused season doesn’t resume at some point later this summer.
“We have the news on here every day and we’re trying to stay as informed and knowledgeable as possible. I think we’re going to try and figure out a way to play this summer. Hopefully, we do. Hopefully, sooner rather than later. But it’s going to be such a slow process. It’s going to be easing in, almost by trial and error because you just don’t want that second wave to get really, really bad. It will be interesting to see if it’s playing in front of fans, no fans, neutral site or in our home buildings,” said Copp.
“Everyone is just hoping for the best and hoping for as normal of a return as possible. I think we know there’s a chance it’s not exactly as clean cut as going back to Winnipeg and getting on a plane going to Calgary (where the Jets were set to play their next game. It could be a little more complicated than that. Just hope that things subside nicely over the next little bit and the curve gets flattened. The thing with the flattening of the curve though just means it’s getting extended. It’s not really about how many people are getting it overall, it’s just about how many people are getting it at one time. That’s the worry. Just hoping we can find a way to play whether it’s with fans, without fans. Just trying to find a way to finish the season and play out the playoffs.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
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