From Penal Battalion to Coaching

From Penal Battalion to Coaching


In the year of the 75th anniversary since victory in World War II, we remember the athletes who defended the independence of our homeland with arms in their hands. Here is the story of ice hockey coach Dmitry Boginov who brought up hockey in the cities of Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod), Kiev and Togliatti to high-performance level.

Order for Winter War

Dmitry Boginov is remembered as a bright, handsome and courageous man of action. In addition, he was a great conversationalist. Stories about his youth were legendary. People say that his father was a rear admiral. However, there was no confirmation of that. Leningrad native Boginov was fluent in French. He learned it from his mother who was French.

Like most of the boys, he played football and Russian hockey and worked as a tool man at a factory. Word is his youth was thuggish – and there was a reason for those rumors. Once Boginov told a story how a prisoner nicknamed Zhid got into the Winter War [a war between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland] right from the penal colony -- straight to a penal battalion, of course. He was decorated with the Order of the Red Star. Years after the war, his younger son crushed the award into pieces with a screwdriver.

When the Head of the State Council, Mikhail Kalinin, was handing the award to Boginov in the Kremlin, he said the following confessionary words: “I’ve done wrong to my country and its people. I am ready to accept this award only if I am pardoned.”

A relevant paper was signed, and Boginov was pardoned, indeed.

He Hijacked a German Tank

Dmitry did not like to talk about the war. Once a reporter he knew saw his uniform coat and was amazed at the chestful of decorations. At that time, Boginov shed some light on this topic.

He served as a tank crewman assigned to a sea crew in Tallinn. On the eve of the German invasion, Boginov, his wife and child went on holiday for a week to the Ozerki district near Leningrad. He drank and ate some hors d'oeuvres with his friends. Then they ran out of alcohol. Boginov wearing only his underpants went to the shop on a motorcycle. There was a crowd near the loudspeaker. They were listening to a breaking story on the outbreak of the war. The next day he was summoned to the military commandant's office on Sadovaya Street in Leningrad. There was total chaos there.

He went back to Tallinn, but it turned out that his regiment had been bombed. Boginov returned to Leningrad and joined the 2nd division of the People’s Volunteer Guard.

“They sent us to Luga [a town in the southwest of the Leningrad region,]” Boginov recalled. “Everybody had a rifle and five rounds of ammunition. The Germans were on one side of the river, and we were on the other. That lasted for a month. They made formal shots from time to time. I asked for reassignment to the battalion intelligence section on the other side of the river. It was almost 40 degrees Celsius, and the Germans walked around in their underwear. So, I hijacked a tank from them and drove it to our battalion.

They stopped short of executing me. My action was brought to the army commander’s attention: “If you didn’t have the award for the Winter war, we would shot you.”

A day later, the Germans launched an offensive. They encircled us and we barely escaped along the coast. I was wounded in the right hand there. It is such a pity. I could have immediately pulled out the fragment but I was afraid. From August to November, I was at hospital. Then I was disbursed. One day, five Red Army and I were standing on the bank of the Neva river, waiting for the crossing to the artillery school. Suddenly I was called out by a doctor. It turned out that I had left behind my documents. While I went back, the stray shot killed my companions. Since then, I have been considering November 5, 1941 as my second birthday.”

Rokossovsky Saved Boginov From Being Shot

In 1943, after the Battle of Stalingrad Boginov got to the penal battalion for a second time. At that time, he commanded a tank company of 12 vehicles.

“We were driving down a road. There were the poles with hanged people along its sides. The German main gun fired over the sights,” said Boginov. “I was mad when I saw it. I crushed the gun and then cut some barn to pieces with caterpillars. As it turned out, the wounded Germans had been placed there. I was court-martialed. I was lucky that they didn't execute me immediately. An accidental meeting with Rokossovsky helped. At that time, he was not a marshal but a lieutenant general. However, he knew me. I told him the truth and I was released the same day. I was sent to the penal military unit again. There were no ranks. But I got them back later.”

He Saved Bobrov From Frontline

“Frontline and sports are not compatible,” Boginov said once.

... After another injury near Kharkiv and another hospital САРtain Boginov was sent to the Arkhangelsk Military School as the head of the range practice. However, he was revoked soon enough. At the end of autumn of 1942, he was sent to Omsk for Siberian reinforcement. Two troops of new recruits were to be brought to Stalingrad.

At the railway station in Omsk Boginov came across Mikhail Bobrov, the father of Vsevolod Bobrov, who would become a legend of Soviet football. They knew each other but had not met for three years. Bobrov Sr. said that his elder son was missing in action, and Seva, the younger son, had been evacuated with a factory personnel to Siberia, but was taken later to training camps for prepare for the frontline. The next day while looking through the lists of soldiers who had completed the basic military training, Boginov noticed a familiar surname and ordered to cross it out: “I don't need those who knee-high to a mosquito.”

In the summer of 1945, at the Dynamo stadium in Moscow Boginov saw this very shortie out in the pitch in the CDKA team uniform. The whole stadium was talking about him.

He Hammered out a Silver Medal in Gorky

After the war, Boginov graduated from the Institute of Sports Education in Leningrad and became a coach. However, the old wounds bothered him. Doctors recommended him changing the humid climate for a milder one. In 1955, Boginov moved to Gorky, a city winnowed by the Volga winds. He was going to pluck the local Torpedo team out of the amateurs. At daytime the footballers worked for the giant Gorky automobile plant, and in the evening they had training sessions.

It looked like Boginov managed to do the impossible. In 1960, his team almost removed CSKA from the game. For the first time in Russia the medals of that championship were played out in a series of play-off matches. During the first match in Gorky, the hosts won 6:5 with the help of...thaw. The second game was postponed several times. Then it was held in Moscow where Boginov’s team managed to win twice in play-offs.

A year later, Torpedo got to the awards stand by winning silver. It also made the way to the final of the USSR Cup. It was a huge success.

Drunk with success, the top executives of the plant demanded gold medals from the team and its coach. In response, Boginov asked to buy a new set of uniforms in Moscow and urgently deliver it to Gorky.

“What for?” asked the plant management. They were surprised but granted the wish.

“The uniform is for you. Put it on, come out and win,” replied Boginov and lost favor of the management.

“Mr. Boginov made us learn. He said that illiterate people would never win,” recalled goalkeeper Viktor Konovalenko, two-time Olympic champion. “We didn’t understand it then and strongly disagreed with him.”

After Gorky, Boginov was invited to Kyiv to train the ice hockey team. He built the team from scratch. Dynamo was not the best team. However, Boginov set things in motion. In 1985, Kyiv’s Sokol won the bronze medal. By that time, Boginov had moved to administrative jobs.

In the second half of 1970s, he was invited to Togliatti. He was expected to repeat the success of the Gorky team. He laid the corner stone. The work he started was continued by Gennady Tsygurov and Sergey Mikhalev. They led Lada to the championship, ending the hegemony of Moscow-based clubs.

On June 4, 1992, Boginov passed away. It happened quietly and prosily. In Russia, no one reported the death of the famous coach.

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