If you’re going to play second fiddle to someone, there’s no disgrace in it being Vladislav Tretiak, the greatest international hockey goalie of all time.
Tretiak, who was voted to the IIHF’s Centennial All-Star Team in 2008 by a panel of 56 experts, played at 13 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships for the Soviet Union - the most ever for a goaltender. As of this tournament, the mark for second-most belongs to 39-year-old Belarusian stalwart Andrei Mezin (12).
Mezin has enjoyed some of his greatest World Championship success under head coach Glen Hanlon.
The Chelyabinsk-born stopper was in net when Belarus achieved its highest-ever finish (sixth-place) in 2006, and he put together a 2.01 GAA and 94.1 save percentage en route to a tournament all-star team berth. Without his heroics, Hanlon’s team wouldn’t have scored upset 2-1 wins over Slovakia and Switzerland.
So it’s no wonder Mezin’s return to the national team after a year’s absence coincides with that of Hanlon. They have great mutual trust and respect.
Granted, the 6-1 opening loss to the United States in Minsk wasn’t Mezin’s finest hour. In fact, it kept him in first place in another more dubious category in the record book: most all-time losses at the IIHF World Championship (28). He’s just ahead of Latvia’s Edgars Masalskis (25).
But while that U.S. game didn’t exactly evoke memories of Mezin’s other great World Championship run in 2009, where he was named an all-star and Best Goalie, it did do something else for his place in history.
It enabled him to surpass none other than Sweden’s Tommy Salo in career minutes played at the World Championship.
It put Mezin up to 3,199:50 minutes, compared to Salo’s 3,166:51. Mezin ranks third all-time behind only Tretiak (5,344:37) and Czechoslovakia’s Jiri Holocek (3,686:36).
The most famous time when Mezin outdid Salo, of course, was in the 2002 Olympic quarter-final in Salt Lake City. Belarus shocked powerhouse Sweden with a 4-3 win, courtesy of Mezin’s 44-save performance and Vladimir Kopat’s blooper shot from centre ice that eluded Salo late in the third period.