Glen Hanlon heads Swiss
Glen Hanlon heads Swiss
Swiss want to contend for medals every year
Many of the national teams that will be competing at the 2015 World Championship are sending a delegation to Prague or Ostrava to check out the facilities that their team will be using. One of those teams is Switzerland, led by head coach Glen Hanlon. For Hanlon, this will be his seventh World Championship, but his first behind the Swiss bench - previously he's headed Slovakia and Belarus, and he guided the Belarusians to an impressive quarter-final berth on home ice last season, where they lost narrowly to Sweden.
Previously, Hanlon coached in the NHL for the Washington Capitals, following a 14-year professional career as a goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings.
Hanlon was happy with O2 Arena and the dressing room his team will use, and was particularly pleased with the proximity of the hotel to the arena.
"I'll walk here," he declared. "If I can I like to walk to the arena, and at the time of the World Championship the weather should be beautiful."
But more than just the arena, he was looking forward to the World Championship in the Czech Republic, which he predicts will be a great tournament for the Czechs as well as for everybody that's bound to travel to Prague and Ostrava to watch some games.
“When you look at where the country is situated in Europe, I think it's going to be great as far as participation from other countries. It's also a country with a great hockey tradition and a lot of great fans. I think it's going to be a great World Championship.”
“There are some things that make it difficult for the home team. Sweden won two years ago, but before that it was over 20 years since a team had won at home. If the team doesn't play well it can be difficult, but I think the Czech Republic have a lot of experienced players who are used to the pressure and usually compete for a medal.”
What about your own experience coaching the host teams of World Championships, which you've done twice for two different countries?
When I look at the two, one result I liked and one I didn't like. I think for last year, I had learned a lot from my 2011 experience in Slovakia. I think that year I let the pressure turn me into someone I'm not. One thing I told myself before last year's tournament in Belarus was that, no matter what, I was going to be myself and enjoy the experience. I think it allowed me to make better decisions and be a better coach.
Now you've moved to Switzerland. Are there any adjustments you have to make after coaching in Belarus or Slovakia?
My time in Slovakia was really only one year. We almost had the team picked already - it was most of the 2002 team that won the gold medal. In Belarus, they don't have as many players who can compete for a spot on the national team, so there weren't a lot of choices to make. In Switzerland we have a lot of players to choose from, so that's the biggest adjustment - evaluating more players. There are also a few cultural differences between countries, like how they eat, how they travel, but other than that it's not much different. Hockey is hockey and players are players, and you try to get them playing the right system.
I think most of your players play in the Swiss league? Do you have many that you have to watch in other leagues?
Almost all of our players play in Switzerland. We don't have any players in the KHL and we have a couple in the Swedish league - Kevin Fiala, who played in the World Juniors last year, plays for HV71 and Dean Kukan who plays in Lulea. We also have 10 players in the NHL and two in the AHL.
You won't know which NHL players will be available until near the end of the season.
That makes it tough but what I've learned to do is pick my team in my head without NHL players, and then when the NHL players come, it's like a bonus. So we pick out team from the players we know are 100 percent available because we don't know if Calgary or New Jersey are going to make the playoffs (where goaltender Jonas Hiller and forward Damien Brunner play).
You mentioned some of the limitations you had in Slovakia and Belarus. Now you've got a team that just won the silver medal two years ago.
We have lots of speed and lots of skill. The thing about the Swiss team is they're always right on the edge of being among that best group of teams. Last year they ended up in 10th, but the year before they were second. You know, the Czech and Finnish teams don't have a lot more players than Switzerland does, they don't spend more money, and yet they always compete for the medals. No matter what players they have, they always seem to be right in that group.
I'm trying to get us to move into that group where we're competing every year, no matter how many NHL players come over. Last year Finland had a lot of domestic players - I think they only had (Olli) Jokinen and the goalie (Pekka Rinne) from the NHL - and they ended up second. That's where I want Switzerland can be.
You've spoken about the adjustment of moving from country to country. What about the adjustment of moving from the NHL to European hockey?
It was a bigger adjustment than I thought it would be. I thought I understood the bigger rink already but there were some adjustments and now this year, with the change of the size of the zones, it's really a different game than in North America. And there are also some differences from country to country. I like that I can come here to the Czech Republic and they play a certain way, then in Germany something different and Sweden it's different still. That took some getting used to, but I've been here so long now that I'm more familiar with it now than North American hockey. When I get up in the morning now I check the scores in European leagues before I go to the NHL website.
It sounds like you're pretty grounded here. Is there any thoughts of going back to the NHL to work?
No. You know, I'm really happy where I am. I'm 57 years old, my family's here, I have a son who's in Grade Seven and has travelled all around the world with me . . . I think there comes a time in your life when you don't keep looking at the next move, but you realize what you have and appreciate that. I love doing the job I'm doing right now, working with these players. I don't have any desire to go back.
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