Belarusian Olympic hero turns to coaching
He played the opening game at Minsk Arena during the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, which would turn out to be his last. It marked his 13th participation in the World Championship’s top division, his 15th including Division I tournaments.
He also played in three Olympic Winter Games, in Nagano 1998, Salt Lake City 2002 and Vancouver 2010, the highest number of top-level tournament appearances in history for a goaltender, behind only Vladislav Tretiak (4 Olympics, 13 World Championship participations).
In games and minutes played he’s third in World Championship history behind Tretiak and former Czechoslovak goaltender Jiri Holecek.
Internationally Mezin is mostly remembered for his strong performance at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. In the quarter-finals against Sweden Mezin had 44 saves to lead Belarus to a 4-3 surprise win and eventually a fourth-place finish – the highest placement of a Belarusian team in any top-level ice hockey tournament. Belarusian Post even published a stamp in honour of Mezin’s performance the same year.
Mezin appeared in 135 international games for the Belarusian national team. He was on the World Championship All-Star Team in 2006 and 2009 and also named Best Goalkeeper by the tournament directorate in 2009. In both World Championships Belarus reached the quarter-finals also thanks to strong goaltending from the Chelyabinsk native
Mezin debuted in the Belarusian league as an 18-year-old with Novopolotsk before moving to North America where he played in minor leagues for five years. His journey continued with four seasons in Germany, one in the Czech Republic and 11 seasons in the Russian KHL/Superliga. He was named Belarusian hockey player of the year four times.Continue reading
The hero of Salt Lake City now wants to launch a new career as a goaltending coach. He was on the coaching staff for the Belarusian national team in autumn under then-head coach Vladimir Krikunov while waiting for an offer to play. But such an offer didn’t come.
“I was physically ready but without the mental readiness it’s better not to play. It’s time to finish and turn to coaching,” Mezin told Belarusian sports site tribuna.com. “Hockey is my life. I played this sport for 35 years. I’d like to pass on my knowledge to others.”
Looking back, Mezin immediately thinks of the Olympics, like his debut in Nagano 1998 in the first best-of-best Olympic ice hockey tournament, and the success in Salt Lake City. “And there were many memorable World Championships,” he said.
His other favourite moment was the 2009 World Championship in Switzerland where Belarus did not only reach the quarter-finals but was even leading against later world champion Russia. But this time the favourite won 4-3 thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk’s game winner.
Mezin also won the 2008 European Champions Cup with Metallurg Magnitogorsk and as European club champion represented Europe in the 2008 Victoria Cup where Metallurg lost to the New York Rangers.
Although he didn’t make it to the NHL, Mezin saw it as a wise step to try hockey outside of Belarus.
“In America I saw a completely different style of hockey and not only the one in the Soviet Union. I was taught to forget about defeats. In Belarus I was very upset after losses. There everything was different. Because of the intense schedule you forget about previous mistakes,” he said.
“I didn’t make the NHL but I was close. I didn’t to the right steps towards the best league but I cannot complain. I played against the best players of the world in World Championships and at the Olympics. I saw the world in Europe. All I had was good.”
Now Mezin is using his time for the family and playing golf but hopes to get a new job with a team soon.
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