BRATISLAVA – First the home crowd booed the Slovak team off the ice, then it was head coach Glen Hanlon’s turn to offer his face as a target for rotten tomato hurling. And he didn’t duck. Instead, he answered questions until the last reporter had got his questions answered.
"I'm not here to give excuses, it's our job as coaches and managers and players to deal with [the home ice pressure]. There's likely a reason for the fact that it’s been 25 years since the home team won the championship. Especially in a country where the expectations and anticipation are very high," said Hanlon.
The Canadian-born coach has earned a reputation as a defensive-minded coach whose style works better with teams like Belarus which doesn’t have the offensive weapons than with teams like Slovakia, famous for skilled forwards. Even during the World Championship, there have been rumors about Hanlon's status as the head coach. After the game, some players implied that they haven’t been perfectly happy with Hanlon's style.
"Who said that? Marian Hossa? Interesting," Hanlon said, and paused. "Our system wasn't the reason we lost, and our system is fine," he continued.
"We lost a faceoff, but we certainly didn’t change our game plan, or sit back [to protect the lead]. We wanted to keep on playing. If anything, we wanted to get more shots on the net," he added.
Hanlon was hired after the 2010 Olympics where Slovakia finished fourth, and charmed the hockey world with their resilient play. With Hanlon as the head coach, and with only four NHL players, Slovakia finished 12th in the 2010 World Championship in Germany. When he signed a four-year-contract in 2010, one of his main tasks was seen to be building the Slovak system in the long run.
Last night, he had to answer questions about his job security.
"This isn’t my first job, I know how this world operates, but I can’t go around thinking about things like that. I am very passionate about doing my work as well as I can every day," he said.
As the first non-Slovak coach in charge of the national team, Hanlon was under the microscope as it was.
"I don’t have a Slovak passport, but I’ve done everything I can. I care about the country and the game as much as anyone, and I’m very disappointed that we lost. I hope we learn from it," he said.
Hanlon and his staff had to make some changes in the lineup with Ladislav Nagy suddenly out. Nagy, who started the tournament in the fourth line, collected five points in four games, and led the team in scoring despite his limited ice time.
"We found out about an hour before the game that he couldn’t play. Of course we missed him, but I think we had enough skill without him. Still, we had enough scoring skill to score more than one goal," Hanlon said.
Nobody expected Nagy, who played in the Swedish Elitserien this season, to lead the team in goals and points. Maybe there was too much skill on the Slovak team – if such a thing is possible?
"We had a plan in picking the team that we were trying to bring as many players from the Olympic program as possible. We really do feel that he selection was the best, that there wasn’t a player left outside this group that should have been here and thought we could put together four attacking lines," said Hanlon.
According to Hanlon, the team’s motto for the tournament was that "the star of the team was the team".
"I think they’re good players and great guys. We didn’t win so that doesn’t give us a high mark but you won’t hear me say anything bad about the players or the team. I can’t give it a high rating because no-one’s going to believe me, nor does it deserve it, but I’m not going to give the team a low rating because that’s just not the kind of person I am. I don’t put blame on other people," he added.
"We ended up losing by a goal, and that’s hard to take right now, but that’s sports, and we’ll fight another day," Hanlon said.