The former Soviet Union’s long-time hockey coach Viktor Tikhonov died early Monday morning at the age of 84. Tikhonov led the Soviet hockey team to three gold medals in the Olympic Games and eight world championships.
Tikhonov forever changed the game of hockey with his institution of a faster, more physical game. Vladislav Tretiak, who played goalie for Tikhonov’s Soviet team said that “[Tikhonov] 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.”
Despite guiding the Soviet Machine to unbreakable success in the later parts of the twentieth century, Tikhonov was the head coach during the Soviet’s loss to the Americans at Lake Placid in 1980. Often regarded as the highest point in American hockey history, the Soviets still returned to win gold medals in the next three Winter Olympic Games (Won 1992 games as the Russian national team)
Regardless of his prowess in the coaching world, Tikhonov was known as an authoritarian and extremely political coach. He often cut star players from the national team if he believed they intended to emigrate from the Soviet Union to western countries.
Tretiak commented on Tikhonov’s loss saying, “The entire global hockey community has lost a great coach.”