International Ice Hockey Federation

Remembering Tikhonov

Remembering Tikhonov

Legendary coach’s record may stay forever

Published 24.11.2014 11:49 GMT+1 | Author Martin Merk
Remembering Tikhonov
Legendary Soviet head coach Viktor Tikhonov at the player bench during the 1985 IIHF World Championship in Prague. Sergei Guneyev / RIA Novosti
One of international hockey’s most successful coaches of all time, Viktor Tikhonov, died this morning in a hospital in Moscow after long illness. He was 84.

The funeral will take place in Moscow on Thursday.

With Tikhonov the international hockey family lost its most decorated coach ever. During his era as the head coach of the Soviet Union and Russia, the Moscow-born coach led the national team to three Olympic gold medals and eight World Championship titles between 1979 and 1992 and the 1981 Canada Cup. He also won one Olympic silver medal, one World Championship silver medal and two World Championship bronze medals.

Born in Moscow in 1930, Tikhonov played bandy, football and ice hockey. He started his hockey career at the top level as a defenceman with VVS MVO Moscow and Dynamo Moscow and won four consecutive championships (1951-1953 with VVS, 1954 with Dynamo) but is mostly remembered for his extraordinarily successful coaching career.

After his first experiences as an assistant coach with Dynamo Moscow and the Soviet national team at the 1968 Olympics, Tikhonov moved into the head coaching role with Dinamo Riga and led the Latvians from the third to the top Soviet league.

The remarkable success story in Riga made him a choice for top jobs in the Soviet Union. In 1976, when the Soviets decided not to send a full roster to the Canada Cup and instead focus on the Olympics, they didn’t send Boris Kulagin as head coach to North America but instead Tikhonov, who got his first chance to coach internationally.

The Soviets finished in third place behind Canada and Czechoslovakia, but Tikhonov had only to wait just over one year before he was given the most powerful coaching position in the country. In 1977 he became head coach of the army team CSKA Moscow and at the same time of the national team. From then on he was coaching the Soviet/Russian national team during 17 consecutive seasons and he was even longer behind the bench of CSKA.

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In his first tournament the Soviets finished the preliminary round in Prague in second place after a loss to host Czechoslovakia but in the medal round they beat the same opponent 3-1 to win the first gold medal in three years. From now on the national team would medal in every World Championship and Olympic tournament until the 1992 Olympics. More often than not, the colour of those medals was golden.

At the end of his international career after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Tikhonov also had the chance to coach the Russian national team.

At the 1992 Olympics the Olympic team was sent to Albertville as “Unified Team” to represent the former Soviet Republic that were part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), but as opposed to other sports the Russian national team consisted of players of Russian origin, except for Lithuanian-born Darius Kasparaitis who opted to play for Russia also in the years to follow. Tikhonov also coached Russia at the 1992 World Championship, the 1994 Olympic Winter Games and the 2004 World Championship.

The end of the Soviet Union also marked the end of Tikhonov’s remarkable streak, with times and coaching styles in Russia changing. It was an era with a winning record that will be virtually impossible to beat for any international coach considering the higher level of competitiveness in the modern era of international hockey.

Tikhonov, who led CSKA Moscow to 13 consecutive Soviet championships (1977-1989) and 13 consecutive European Cup titles (1978-1990), ended his career in 2004 as a 73-year-old when he still coached CSKA Moscow and had a comeback on the international stage coaching the World Championship team of the same year.

He was inducted into the builders’ category of the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1998 and is also a Russian Hall of Fame member. He won numerous awards in his native country such as the Order of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, the Order of Friendship of Peoples, the Order For Merit to the Fatherland, the Order of Honour, the Order of Friendship, the Medal for Distinguished Labour and the Medal for Military Valour, and he was named Honoured Coach of the USSR, Honoured Master of Sports and Honoured Worker of Physical Culture.

Tikhonov suffered the loss of his only son, Vasili, last year following an accident in his apartment. He is survived by his wife Tatyana and his grandchildren. His grandson, Viktor, also plays hockey and was on the team that won the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk and also played in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

In the last few months rumours about his health condition spread in the Russian media although he was still seen in public, including during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games or when joining his grandson Viktor Tikhonov to the Kremlin for the presidential reception of the World Champions in May 2014.

Tikhonov was hospitalized on 29th October and passed away on Monday morning in hospital due to a cardiac arrest but his name will be remembered forever thanks to the incredible legacy that he left in Russian and in international hockey.


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