Comrade Hanlon

Canadian coach of NHL′s "Washigton Capitals" considers Belarus his second motherland
Appointment Glen Hanlon from Canada head coach of Belarus national team in spring 2005 was a sensation. Hanlon is the first among NHL coaches to lead a European team. He is a pioneer, a path-breaker and a man with no fear of unknown, he is conscious about his knowledge and strength; so, he set about his work and raised Belarus national team to ten best teams at world championship in Austria. He came to Belarus again in August. Despite the fact that the NHL lockout was over, he decided not to leave Belarus, which he gave his heart to. Being team head coach, Hanlon is going to stay topside for at least one more year.

It′s amazing how he became an insider for Belarussian people and managed to understand their problems and their life, which is by far different from life across the Atlantic. It is not better or worse, it′s just different.

Hanlon turned to be extraordinary sociable, open-minded and sincere man. And the only problem for this interview with him was full lack of free time in his busy schedule. In fact, the Canadian specialist came here for a week only and there was so much to do — some wouldn′t cope in a month. I wasn′t going to ask Hanlon about hockey. He has many times expressed his mind about hockey openly, and results of Belarus team at recent world championship in Vienna were self-explanatory. I wanted to get to know his heart, thus our talk began as follows…

— Mr. Hanlon, how would you introduce yourself to our readers?

— First I would call myself a part of my family, which is very important to me. My wife and my son are above all in life. And after them it goes like this: Glen Hanlon. The man obsessed with hockey, head coach of NHL "Washington Capitals" and Belarus national team.

— What did you dream of in childhood most of all?

— As a kid, I wasn′t too all-rounded and did hockey only. I had a particular dream — to play in NHL, and I made it come true.

— What earthly things you cannot deny yourself?

— Oh, they′re too many (laughing). — Glen counts on his hand. — Decent dinner, spending time with my family… In fact, hockey is the main earthly thing I cannot deny myself (laughing). And apart from all — it′s golf! If I have spare time I often run away from all problems and play golf.

— Are you good at golf?

— Certainly, I can do some things because I′ve been playing since 10, but I am not boasting. Let′s say, I play well. The point is that recent time I have no time for golf, especially after the birth of my son.

— Whose opinion is the most important for you?

— Pat Quinn, Canadian coach who heads Canada Olympic national team and Toronto Maple Leafs. When I retired as player, I was lucky to work as Quinn′s assistant. I got very much from this master. Mainly, it′s about respect to players. When you are at the very beginning of coach career, it′s very important who explains the basics to you, who shows you the path to move. Quinn was that teacher to establish the basics of my today′s coach knowledge. I am very thankful to him for that.

— What can you spend a million for?

— A million?.. I′d built a bungalow on ocean shore or near a lake among hills. And there should be a nice huge mantelpiece for grill and a good wine cellar, too.

— What is easier for you — rise at 6 a.m. or go to bed at 4?

— I am convinced that successful people must rise early. The most productive time in my job is before the phone starts ringing.

— Do you always speak what you think?

— No, no, not always. I don′t believe this is possible. Sometimes you cannot speak straight, or you can offend or hurt somebody′s feelings. This doesn′t mean you have to tell lies, but I find a way to express my thoughts reasonably, I find other words. In fact, this doesn′t concern my job — hockey. I am very straight in hockey.

— Do you feel influence of your birthsign?

— I don′t believe in moon and stars. The man is a product of his environment. My parents who raised and brought me up influenced my character.

— If you like traveling, what mode of transport is preferable?

— I like traveling very much. The best kind of relaxation during vacations is driving my wagon (there′s a sort of car in America — looks like jeep yet not quite jeep). But driving not by roads — through hills and woods, with camping near fire, sleeping in a tent… Gorgeous! I would like to live that way. I′d only get away to play golf for a couple of hours and get back again (laughing).

— Who is your closest friend?

— Certainly I can call my wife my closest friend, but still, I′d call best friends those with whom I spent my childhood, with whom we used to play tricks and spend all our spare time. We can be apart for years, and when we meet it looks like we haven′t been apart at all.

— Do you believe in extraterrestrial civilizations?

— No, I′d say no.

— What is an ideal woman for you?

— A good mother — that′s the main point. Bearing children and bringing them up is an important and difficult mission. I always admired women who have patience for all this.

— How do you spend your vacations?

— Since my job implies many tiresome flights and travels, I admire quiet family vacations in our small house at the ocean near Vancouver.

— What is inexcusable even for best friends?

— Dishonesty.

— What is laziness and what is peace of mind to you?

A pause… And Glen explodes! Imagine — there he sits quietly listening to answers attentively and suddenly — boom! — he straightens like he′s got a spindle in his back and drums a loud and swift roll at the table, which makes me startle and straighten too. His eyes shine and Glen shouts in time with his beat: "Let′s go, let′s go!" My eyes are shining too now. I look about convulsively, searching something that can resemble a club. I have an itch to act, to grab the stick and run to hockey pitch like a devil where, as I imagine, my rivals await. I′ll tear them to pieces, I′m ready to knock them down! Now, Glen quiets and I begin to realize what mental approach is.

— None is admissible to me. — Bailing out of chaos in my head, I try to grasp: what is he speaking about? Oh yes, laziness, peace of mind… — I cannot sit still. Peace of mind? Probably. Sometimes. Relax a bit, take breath, have a rest. But laziness? Impossible! Lazy people — sick people. I honestly pity them. They have no chance to understand how great it is to have a sound body, they cannot perceive all advantages of healthy life. Lazy people put themselves into a cage. By the way, you cannot see such people in NHL — we don′t have time to be lazy there.

— In our country many people make garden-beds in their suburban plots where they grow vegetables. Do you have a vegetable garden? What do you grow there?

— I would very much like to have an opportunity to dig in the soil. But the fact is I cannot visit my country house very often as it is quite far from Washington where we live now, to Vancouver. And my parents still grow flowers, fruit and vegetables, though they are in their seventies.

— What would you do first if you were President of Belarus?

— I think, first I′d raise salary of national hockey team head coach (laughing and winking cunningly). And speaking seriously, I know what to do — I′d place an aurochs at national team emblem. You are very lucky to have these strong grand animals in your country, for they are extinct elsewhere. Aurochs is a symbol of Belarus. So, around the world people would think of Belarus seeing an aurochs on a T-shirt, like they think of Canada when see a maple leaf.

— Do you have enemies?

— No. At any hand, I don′t know them. I have never met a person with whom I used to play or whom I coached, who wouldn′t shake hands with me. I think this is because I′ve always tried to approach people with respect…

— Who would you like to be if there was an opportunity to start from the beginning?

— I think I would switch to another event. I would probably choose golf instead of hockey and would try to reach the results of Tiger Woods.

— What are you most short of?

— Spare time. I would like to pay much more time to my family. Recent years one of the best days was one I spent in airliner on my way to Belarus. I′ve been reading, watching movies and having my head free of everything for 10 hours.

— When did you laugh from your heart last time?

— (Laughing) You mean how many times during this interview? (laughing). I have no problems with sense of humor.

— How do you refer to great Russian writer Anton Chekhov′s passage that there is nothing more frightening than a provincial celebrity?

— This is a difficult question, yet I think this is true. This definition can be applied in all realms, including hockey. Provincial celebrity is like star syndrome, it breaks lives of most gifted athletes.

— Do you remember your childhood nickname?

— Carrot! It′s because I′m red!

— Are you superstitious?

— No. I believe only that if you do the good, it will return as good. I am sure that only good people can be happy.

— Do you believe in God?

— Yes, I am certainly very religious.

— What country you would like to visit and why?

— I am lucky in this aspect as hockey gave me the opportunity to travel much. Before visiting Belarus I dreamed of seeing Russia, yet now I am completely satisfied as I understand that though different, these two states are very similar. The more especially as I managed to visit Moscow for a day. Now I dream to go to Scandinavian countries — Sweden, Finland, Norway… I hate heat, so countries like Turkey are unattractive to me. I need space where I would breathe freely and feel unconstraint. Well, stop, I forgot country number one — this is Ireland. However I wouldn′t take my family there. I have Irish background and I would be happy to play golf with my friends there and have some beer.

— If you had an opportunity to talk to our most prominent contemporaries, whom you would choose and what would be your questions?

— If it′s about hockey, this is certainly Wayne Gretzky. It happened so that I had no chance to meet this great player. And in general, it would be a man of sports, anyway. Michael Jordan, for instance. I would ask him a simple question: "How did you manage to become such great sportsman, what is necessary for that?"

— How do you feel among young people?

— No problem. Hockey makes me feel young. A coach is just obliged to find common language with the young. If you cannot, you are not coach.

— How often and why are you out of humor with yourself?

— Always when it appears my son or my wife is bored with me. I want badly to stay the most interesting man for them.

— Does rock music have future, how do you think?

— I like rock, rock is forever. And I like singing poets, too.

— Your favorite hockey team?

— "Washington Capitals" and Belarus national team, of course! The first contributes to wealth, the latter to heart.

— Your favorite newspaper?

— "The Hockey News". This is an American paper where you can find any hockey news from Russia to Canada.

— Best piece of music?

— I like country music. Still, I can′t name a particular one.

— Best fragrance?

— Freshly baked bread.

— Time of year?

— The fall. Beginning of hockey season, leaves change their color…

— Flowers?

— They don′t give me any, so I don′t care.

— Clothes?

— I hate business suits. I prefer free style in clothes, jeans for example. And in summer my clothes are uniform: sneakers, T-shirt and briefs. My wife hates me for that style, still I can′t abnegate it as it′s handy…

— Your favorite holiday?

— Christmas.

— Can you name your sweetest place on Earth?

— My house. If you are unhappy at home, something is wrong in your life. You can become champion, gain millions; still, if it goes under in your house, all other good is for nothing. Everything is OK in my home and this allows me to do what I want. As far as it′s decent, of course…

— Do you believe in "All done is for the best"?

— This is the motto of optimists and I believe in it. Whatever happens, you can always imagine thing could go worse.

— How do you look after your health?

— I don′t worry much about this. I don′t watch diets, nor visit doctors daily. Permanent worry can affect health seriously. Believe me, this is true. A cup of coffee or a piece of meat cannot spoil your life, and continuous psycho can. I go on exercycle each morning, if this can be called "looking after health".

— What do you do when you are in ill humor?

— On such moments I try to keep far from people not to lay a bad trip on them. And I do sports.

— What was the main lesson of your life?

— "Don′t take to heart — it′s no use". Anyway, you cannot return things back. It′s necessary to draw lessons, but there is no sense in tearing yourself. As a youth, I used to be very sensitive until realized it doesn′t help. Since then I just began to enjoy life. Believe me it is worth it…

— What question you would ask yourself? And your answer…

— "Glen, how are you going to win the Stanley Cup and the world championship?" The answer: "Preparation, organizing, proper attitude to people!"

Hanlon spent a week to the day in Belarus. He held preparatory session with junior team, a course with the national team, left work schedule for his assistants who are to work with the team in his absence, and went back to America. There he will try to make Washington win the Stanley Cup, world hockey prize number one; after that he is flying back to his "second motherland" as he calls Belarus. He will be back to conquer new heights with national team, which he considers as prestigious as NH…

Sergei Kanashitz
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