Viktor Tikhonov’s Legacy on Russian Hockey Will Live On Forever
Prior to the news of Pat Quinn passing away, legendary Soviet Union head coach Viktor Tikhonov passed away from undisclosed illness at his home. He was 84.
Tikhonov was the Soviet hockey coach whose teams won three Olympic gold medals, but fell to the United States in the “Miracle on Ice” at Lake Placid in 1980.
“The entire global hockey community has lost a great coach,” Vladislav Tretiak, who played goalie for Tikhonov’s Soviet team and now heads the Russian Hockey Federation, told Russia’s R-Sport news agency.
“He devoted his entire life to hockey until the last second. Even when I was with him in hospital, we were discussing what needed to be done and how, in order to raise the Russian national team to the very highest level.”
A defenseman during his playing days with Dynamo Moscow, Tikhonov will be best remembered for his 15 years in charge of the Soviet Union National Hockey Team.
Under Tikhonov, the Soviet ”Big Red Machine” was a powerhouse, crushing opponents every chance they had. The Russians had already established themselves as dominate force in international hockey prior to Tikhonov taking over as they won gold at the Olympics in 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976.
Tikhonov would only add to the legacy of the Soviet Union hockey team. His teams went on to win Olympic gold in 1984 and 1988, despite finishing with a silver medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. He also took the post Soviet Unified Team to gold at the 1992 Olympic Games. He guided the Soviets to eight world championship titles, the 1979 Challenge Cup, and the 1981 Canada Cup.
An authoritarian leader with a taste for intense training sessions, Tikhonov used the Soviet political system to control his players and was known to cut star players from the team for international tournaments if he feared they might defect to the West.
From Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy:
He was an innovator. When his teams were playing North American teams – clubs and national teams – Tikhonov was the first coach to implement rolling four lines instead of three. It is virtually unimaginable playing three lines for the duration of the game today.
He was the coach who developed and gave the world such stars as Slava Fetisov, Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Sergei Zubov, Pavel Bure and many others. His KLM line – the Russian Five – is now a noun, and everyone knows its names.
His name is associated with winning. His name is associated with authority. His name is associated with the game of hockey.
Tikhonov remained an active coach until 2004, when he stepped down from the Russian national team aged 73 after an unsuccessful comeback. He continued to shape Russian hockey as part of the management of CSKA and the Russian Hockey Federation until this year.
It is truly an end of an era for Russian hockey. One of the last great links to the old Soviet Union hockey team is gone, but his impact on the game will be remembered for years to come.