On June 4, Viktor Tikhonov, a well-known hockey coach, would be 90 years old. There is no more successful mentor in the world of hockey than him. The Stanley Cup is the only award that Tikhonov did not have in his collection.
However, Viktor Tikhonov never sought to work abroad. In 1977, when he was 47 years old, he became a coach of the national team and its backbone HC CSKA. At the time, Tikhonov, the former senior coach of Dinamo Riga, which he had climbed from the Second League to the fourth place of the Supreme League, was little known to hockey fans. Not very successful experience of leadership of the USSR experimental team at the 1976 Canada Cup could hardly make him an authority in the eyes of CSKA heavyweights such as Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov and Valery Kharlamov.
In Moscow, Tikhonov got a lukewarm reception. Yuri Andropov, the future General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, who was in charge of developing of hockey in the country, gave wide powers to the new coach. However, Tikhonov did not start with introducing drastic measures immediately.
At first, Tikhonov had to make the national team world champion again in the 1978 Ice Hockey World Championships that took place in Prague. This task was very difficult to accomplish. But Tikhonov managed to do it by removing Spartak players from the team and relying on a new trio, Balderis – Zhluktov – Kapustin. A year later, the team won the Challenge Cup from the stars of the National Hockey League on their home-field in Madison Square Garden, and then the World Cup in Moscow.
Tikhonov's authority became stronger in the eyes of hockey fans and the country's leadership. Otherwise, he would hardly have been forgiven for misfiring at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in New York, where our mighty team lost the gold medal to U.S. students.
Tikhonov began to build a new team, inviting younger players there. Then Mikhailov, Petrov, Kharlamov, Tsygankov and Lutchenko left the team. They were replaced by young Makarov, Larionov, Krutov, Kasatonov, and Starikov.
Spectacular and convincing victories at the 1981 Ice Hockey World Championships and especially at the 1981 Labatt Canada Cup made it possible to forget about the Olympic failure. After that, the Soviet Union national ice hockey team was unbeatable for four and a half years. In 1983, it became known as the Red Machine. After the 1983 Ice Hockey World Championships, Tikonov was awarded the Order of Lenin, the highest civilian decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union.
During the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Tikhonov took revenge for the 1980 Olympics. The next two Olympic games brought gold to the Red Machine. However, at the 1992 Winter Olympics, the CIS team, which played under the white Olympic flag, was called “a kindergarten” owning to the young age of most of the players.
Tikhonov always thought about the future and built up a human resource, trusting young players to play in the team.
He created the Mogilny – Fedorov – Bure forward group to replace Krutov – Larionov – Makarov, the best line in the world. However, they all ended up playing in the NHL.
Tikhonov considered the team that won in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary to be the best team he had ever worked with. Complex destructive processes in the country also affected the Red Machine. Claims and ultimatums were issued to Tikhonov. Moreover, the captain of the team Fetisov refused to “play in the Tikhonov team” from the newspaper pages.
However, Tikhonov was able to forgive and at the request of the players returned the disgraced Fetisov to the national team. The 1989 and 1990 World Cups were won with an explicit advantage.
At the unscheduled 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, the Russian team took the fourth place for the first time in history. Anatoly Tarasov, “the father of Russian ice hockey,” attacked Tikhonov. However, that result objectively reflected the balance of power. The list of our team was made up of players of the domestic championship. Bykov and Khomutov, experienced players and heroes of the 1992 Winter Olympics, had to stay in Switzerland and couldn’t come to play for the Red Machine.
Seemingly, Tikhonov was done with the national team. However, in 2003, at the age of 73, he was called back. Everyone believed that he would be able to return at least some medals to Russia.
The miracle did not happen. The team that lost respect in the eyes of the players did not even make it to the playoffs of the 2004 World Cup in Ostrava. But the young Alexander Ovechkin made his debut there.
Interestingly, Alexander Maltsev, Ovechkin's idol, was brought from Kirovo-Chepetsk to Dynamo by Tikhonov who helped Arkady Chernyshev, a coach at Dynamo Moscow and a distinguished coach of the USSR national ice hockey team, in the 1960s.
In 2004, Tikhonov retired from coaching but remained President of HC CSKA. It was Tikhonov who saved the team from default by organizing a historic meeting with Vladimir Putin. The main fan of the country helped the famous club to get a sponsor in the person of the Rosneft company, the leader of the Russian oil sector.
In 2015, CSKA became a 33-time champion of Russia. In 2019, it won the Gagarin Cup, the main trophy of the KHL. Unfortunately, Tikhonov did not live to the moment of success. He passed away on November 24, 2014. Six months before his death, his grandson Viktor Tikhonov Jr. hung a gold medal of the championship around his grandfather's neck in the championship locker room in Minsk.
Viktor Vasilyevich Tikhonov
Born on June 4, 1930 in Moscow. Died on November 24, 2014 in Moscow.
Defender, Master of Sports (1950), and a distinguished coach of the USSR (1978)
Career as a player: WWS MO (1949-1953), Dynamo M (1953-1963), four-time champion of the USSR, 296 matches, 35 goals
Coaching career: Dynamo R (1968-1977), CSKA (1977-2004), the USSR experimental national team (1976), USSR / CIS / Russian national team (1977-1992, 1994, 2003-2004)
Olympic Champion (1984, 1988, 1992), Olympic silver medalist (1980)
World Champion (1978, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990)
Champion of the USSR (1977-1989)
Winner of the Challenge Cup (1979) and Canada Cup (1981)
Honours and awards: Order of Lenin (1983), Order of the October Revolution (1988), Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1978), the Order of Friendship (1981), the Order for Merit to the Fatherland, 3rd class, Order of Honour (2000), Order of Friendship (2010), Medal for Military Valour, Medal for Military Valour of the 1st class, and the Olympic order
Member of the IIHF Hall of Fame (1998).