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Trouba and Copp: The Michigan Connection

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets

Younger players rooming together while the Winnipeg Jets are on the road is nothing new. But Jacob Trouba and Andrew Copp are a bit different. They continue being roommates, even in the Manitoba capital.

“We live with his older brother (in Winnipeg),” said Copp laughing. “We just can’t get away from each other right now.”

But being this close is nothing new for Copp and Trouba. The two Michigan natives have played together numerous times throughout their hockey careers. The first time the pair suited up together was when they were 10-years-old.

From there, their paths crossed with the USA National Development Team from 2010-2012, and at the University of Michigan in 2012-2013.

“We had a pretty close group of guys that all pretty much hung out together. We had a good core that stayed together for six or seven years,” said 21-year-old Trouba. “All the parents were good friends so that kind of helped. It was a good environment to grow up in.”

Keeping with that family tradition, the younger siblings of Trouba and Copp also play on the same team this season.

However, there were a couple years the two weren’t wearing the same colours. Though they were eligible in the same NHL Draft, Trouba was drafted by the Jets ninth overall in the 2012, while Copp was selected in the fourth round in 2013. During that draft in 2013, the 21-year-old Copp was texting Trouba.

“Every time Winnipeg came up it was like ‘Is this going to be the time?’ It’s crazy how it’s worked out. We’ve taken a similar path I guess… mine a little bit of a longer route,” laughed Copp, who played two more seasons in Michigan than Trouba. “Making teams like USA, and Michigan. Chances aren’t very high that you’re going to follow with one of your closest friends, and then end up here together too. Chances are pretty small when you’re 10 years old on the same team, that when you’re 21, you’ll end up in the same spot.”

Copp made the most of those extra seasons in Michigan. He served as an alternate captain in the 2013-2014 season, before wearing the captain’s ‘C’ in 2014-2015. In his NCAA career, Copp tallied 40 goals and 81 points.

Through it all, Copp kept in touch with Trouba, who was in Winnipeg.

“I was always curious about how the team was doing (in Michigan). They were my old teammates. He was wondering what it was like here, since he wanted to be here one day,” said Trouba. “We’d always talk. Not even always about hockey. We’d always just talk about life and all the things that friends do.”

Then came Copp’s chance. With Michigan’s season over, Copp signed an entry-level contract with the Jets on March 26, 2015, and joined the team for practices as Trouba and the Jets pushed for a playoff spot. With that spot secured following game 81, Copp suited up for his NHL debut against the Calgary Flames in game 82.

“It was good especially being here for training camp, being comfortable with the guys and not trying to fit in,” Copp said of his experience last season. “I was more just coming in trying to make the team. Obviously having (Trouba) here in the beginning was good just for the comfort factor and a ‘way in’ with the guys. He’s kind of helped me a lot in that aspect unfortunately.”

Trouba graciously accepted Copp’s compliment, the only way he can.

“Mooch,” said Trouba, sarcastically.

As much as Trouba jokes about it, head coach Paul Maurice said the relationship between the two players was huge for the young forward coming from college.

“That makes all the difference in the world. If you have one guy who can show you the ropes, take you out for dinner after the games, make you feel like a part of it, then you’ve got your in,” said Maurice. “It’s almost a perfect situation for him.”

So while Trouba may have the bragging rights when it comes to veteran status in the NHL, turn the conversation to football, and Trouba’s eyes start to roll.

Copp was a prolific quarterback in high school football, before choosing hockey as his preferred sport shortly after an injury. Copp still thinks about his senior year though. Sitting with a 2-2 record, he had the game of his life.

“We played Pioneer which is the school that all the other USA guys go to,” he said during an interview at the 2013 USA World Junior Evaluation Camp. “On top of being an inner city rival, I also have a few guys over there that I’d like to beat. We ended up losing the game 52-49. I threw for seven touchdowns, 557 yards, a state record in Michigan. But the loss just tore me apart.”

Two games later on Senior Night, Copp broke his collarbone. “It was a tough way to end,” he said, knowing he had completed his final play of football. “But it was an awesome experience going through.”

Even Maurice was impressed with the video he saw. He could see some similarities between playing quarterback and playing centre.

“Just Google him. It’s unbelievable. Seriously if we ever have a flag football game, we’re drafting him first overall and it’s not even close,” said Maurice. “It’s to the point where you’re thinking, for the centre ice position, if you can pick the switch offs, and the defences to play quarterback - and I know it’s high school but, I lived in the States for a lot of years, Friday night is a big night - that’s a serious game they’re playing out there.

“That helps with your centre ice position. That’s probably why he picks up the switch offs and the reads and the speeds as quickly as he does. It’s also probably why he’s not afraid to go in the corners. He’s been in tougher areas.”

But all this means nothing to Trouba. He questioned the quality of opposition Copp faced in those years, particularly when Copp faced Trouba’s high school.

Copp: Your (high school) running back is the starting running back for (the University of) Michigan!

Trouba: Yeah but they’re not good. What does offense have to do with anything? You play against the defence.

Copp: They had a good defence too!

Trouba: You only scored 70 points against them.

Copp: Yeah that’s why I was good!

Trouba: You weren’t that good.

Like many other chirping contests between the two, they laugh this one off and head down the hallway for a workout, walking side by side. The same way they’ll be away from the rink.

“He just got stuck with me,” Trouba said. “Now we’re together literally 24/7.”

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