Legendary Soviet Hockey Coach Viktor Tikhonov Dies

by Jackie Thompson

Viktor Tikhonov, revered as one of the greatest names in hockey, died during the night on November 24 as a result of a prolonged illness. The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) reported that he had been receiving home treatment for an illness that had left him unable to walk in recent weeks. He was 84.

Despite having lead the Soviet National Hockey team to the Olympic gold medal in 1984 and 1988, Tikhonov is best known for his loss to the United States in the famed 1980 “Miracle on Ice” game. He coached the Soviet National team for 14 years and even after the Soviet Union dissolved, he led the Unified Team to 1992 gold and led Russia to eight IIHF world championships. Recently, he had been working closely with the KHL club CSKA Moscow.

“The entire global hockey community has lost a great coach,” said Tikhonov’s goalie, Vladislav Tretiak, according to Russia’s R-Sport news agency. President Vladimir Putin also expressed his condolences to the Tikhonov family.

Tikhonov was well-known for his domineering rule over the Soviet team, known as the Big Red Machine. He held practices for 11 months of the year and forced players to sleep in barracks, away from their families. Tikhonov even fought efforts by some of his players to join the National Hockey League.

But none can argue that his authoritarian rule over his team came without reward: it revolutionized the game and led to a global Russian dominance of the game. “People like Viktor Tikhonov should never be forgotten,” Tretiak said, “Viktor’s name is forever inscribed in the history of Soviet and Russian hockey. We must cherish that name.”

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