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Media news

For print
May 19, 2016

From the way Geoff Platt tells it, Belarus coach Dave Lewis may have missed his calling as a yoga teacher. What did Lewis say before the 3-0 win over France?

Canadian-born Belarus sniper talks Worlds, KHL

“Just to take a couple of deep breaths,” said Platt, a nifty naturalized Canadian forward who has suited up for Belarus since the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk. “Just relax and enjoy it. It sounds simple, but we were under a tremendous amount of pressure all tournament.”

Tuesday’s victory ensured that the former Soviet republic would return to the elite division for the 13th consecutive year in 2017. Platt’s line with captain Andrei Stas and fellow Canadian Charles Linglet was on fire, combining for eight points in a must-win situation. He chipped in a goal and an assist.

“We responded very well,” Platt said. “We started extremely hot. I thought my line set a very good tone off the first shift of the game. The whole tempo of the game followed that shift. I was very happy with being able to lead that way.”

Naturally, it wasn’t as thrilling as when he opened the scoring in the crucial 3-1 win over Latvia in 2014 that gave Belarus its first of two straight quarter-final berths. Still, finishing twelfth this year is still far better than the alternative scenario of losing to France and going down to Division I to make way for Hungary, which beat Belarus 5-2 in group play.

The 30-year-old Toronto native, who played 46 NHL games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks between 2005-06 and 2007-08, has spent eight successful seasons in the KHL, including a six-year stint with Dynamo Minsk, two seasons with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, and a run to the Gagarin Cup final this year with CSKA Moscow.

During the 2014 playoffs, with Lokomotiv facing Lev Prague, Platt became an Internet sensation when he scored a spectacular goal, batting the puck into the air and touching it twice more before it went in.

So Platt certainly knows his way around the former Eastern Bloc. Nonetheless, he was happy to line up with Linglet, a 33-year-old Montreal-born former Dynamo Minsk teammate, in Belarus colors for the first time.

“To me, it meant familiarity and communication,” Platt said. “It was too bad that it kind of took us this long to get going and find chemistry like we did by the end of the tournament. I’m happy how we finished, but I wish we could have been successful earlier on.”

Looking down the road, Belarus may bid against Latvia to host the 2022 Worlds. Platt just caught wind of this development recently and is in favor. After all, the 2014 tournament set an attendance record of 640,044, eclipsing the previous 2004 mark of 552,097 from the Czech Republic. (However, the Czechs reclaimed the record last year with 741,690 spectators in Prague and Ostrava.)

“It’s funny you mention that, because I read on the IIHF web site that they have aspirations of that,” Platt said. “I think they did a tremendous job in 2014, and I think the country and the city of Minsk is fully prepared to host it again.”

How does he feel about the World Cup of Hockey making its return in his hometown after a 12-year absence?

“Overpriced tickets and hockey mania as usual!” Platt said with a laugh. “But at least it’ll give Canadian people hope. I’m a die-hard Leafs fan. I actually just read an article about Cleveland fans and Toronto fans being comparable in the Globe and Mail today. So I definitely fall into that category. To have a winner in Toronto, hopefully, with Team Canada would be incredible to watch.”

He has simple advice for other Canadian hockey players looking to follow in his footsteps in the KHL: “Be patient. Things are going to be frustrating. Things are going to be different. It’s not the way it is back home or even in Europe. Be patient every single day, because it can be a struggle, and it can be very, very different at times.”

Platt also said he will take some time to think about his hockey future now that his Worlds are over. He had 35 points in 55 regular season games this year with CSKA Moscow, and added 10 more points in 12 playoff games, so he's still performing at a high level. But that's not the only consideration.

“Playing in Russia has been very challenging physically and mentally. With the schedule, although it’s 60 games, we travel identically to the NHL, flying to every game. And the distance we travel is actually much greater than in the NHL. This season took a phenomenal toll on me. I played to Game Seven of the Gagarin Cup final and then came straight to the World Championship. I need a lot of time to just sit back and digest this year, because I’ve given so much of myself to this season. I’m happy I achieved as much as I did this year.”

So are die-hard Belarus fans, who can breathe easy again.

Source: IIHF.com

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