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Gulutzan looking forward to some lake life this summer to re-energize for next season

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Far from the madding crowd.

Out on the lake, basking in prairie sunshine. Rod and reel in hand. 

No defensive-zone coverage to shore up. No 19,000 interested parties shrieking advice on the job site. No charter flights to rush to. No hotel rooms to re-check to make sure nothing's been left. No nosy media requests to accommodate.

Engulfed by blessed silence, the only noise the lapping of water.

"Just being outside, in nature, helps me decompress,'' says Glen Gulutzan of his summer plans.

"We've been on Fishing Lake (Saskatchewan) for eight years. Right now I'm kinda in-between places, we sold our last year. But our family has three spots, so all's good."

For the Flames' head coach, being away from the beaten track a piece represents a kind of sanctuary.

"On the lake … it's quiet there,'' Gulutzan explains. "Calm. Relaxing. It seems to slow the day. When you have kids, I think everybody realizes that life can seem to start going too fast.

"It's where I re-charge my batteries. Where I re-energize. It's where I can think and where a lot of ideas originate."

"So that, to me, makes the time really mandatory. The thing with coaches is you're working 9-10 months with really no break.

"You might have four days where you're completely off. And even then it's tough now to think about what's going on at the rink."

On practice days in season the coaching staff arrives at the workplace around 7 a.m. and leaves near dinner time. Game days stretch from 7 a.m., until midnight.

"It does consume you,'' says Gulutzan. "What you do get on the other side of it, is if you do your work properly there are six or seven weeks you can get away."

The Gulutzan crew are town until the end of June as the kids - Emma, Brielle, Landen and Grace - wind up school.

"I'll probably leave early enough that I can pick them up. The rest of the time I'll just kinda chip away at getting ready for training camp, watch some players we have some interest in, watch our farm team in the playoffs.

"Those kinds of things will be on my docket.

"But first and foremost at this time of year is my family and kind of re-introducing myself.

"(We'll be at) the lake and we'll head back to Hudson Bay. Just kind of get away from the pace of city life, get to the lake and some small-town living."

Whatever down time is available is certainly warranted in a pressure-cooker job with the degree of public scrutiny inherent in coaching in professional sport.

Gulutzan and his coaching staff - first-year Flames Dave Cameron and Paul Jerrard, along with old hands Martin Gelinas and Jordan Sigalet - have plenty to build on.

A 17-point improvement in the standings. A whet-the-whistle return to the post-season. The growth of players in vital positions. The implementation of those hockey watchwords, culture and system, so crucial to ongoing success.

"What was I most proud of about the year?" Gultuzan thinks on that a moment. "Hopefully, the way our team was connected on and off the ice. We worked hard in doing that. 

"Through 82 games, I thought it was a growth year. The guys enjoyed themselves, I think. I know they worked very hard.

"I just thought we were a very together. And that's important."

So is the eight-and-a-half-hour drive northeast to his summer sanctuary.

"One part I really like about being at the lake?'' Gulutzan laughs. "There's very little cell phone service.

"I used to go sit outside the cabin on an old boat-launch road and for whatever reason I could get two bars on my phone.

"At the end of the day, that's how I'd check my phone. On those two bars."

The upcoming R&R is welcome, necessary, especially in his line of work. The chance to fish with his kids, to re-introduce himself to the family, kick back and enjoy the weather. It's all wonderful.

But ..

"But … there'll come a time in September,'' acknowledges Gulutzan, from years of experience. "There always does. A time when you say to yourself 'OK, I've had enough of the lake. Had enough quiet. Had enough Crown Royals.'

"When you're batteries are re-charged. When you're chomping at the bit. When you're ready to go back to work.

"When it's hockey time again."

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