KYIV – Mikhail Zakharov is the new head coach for Ukraine’s national team. He will meet his squad for the first time on Monday. The 47-year-old was a unanimous choice of the federation’s board and has signed a one-year contract with an option for an additional year. He will take over from Oleksandr Seukand.
Born in 1962 in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Zakharov played for Dynamo Minsk in the Soviet league for eleven years before moving to Poland’s Podhale Nowy Targ. He also played in North American minor leagues for four years and later in the Russian league.
As a player, he won bronze at the 1981 World U20 Championship with the Soviets, and he represented Belarus in two C-pool World Championships.
He has been the head coach of the Belarusian top club Yunost Minsk since 2003 after coaching the organization’s junior team for several years. He won four national championships there as well as the 2007 Continental Cup.
Zakharov was also the head coach of the Belarusian U20 national team from 2003-2005 and an assistant coach of the men’s national team in 2004. In 2008 he received the Order of Honour from the country’s president for his contribution to Belarus ice hockey.
In Yunost, he coaches his son, Konstantin, a 2003 third-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, who returned to Minsk after two years with the farm team.
Ukraine played in the top division from 1999-2007 and missed the promotion back to the elite nations the last two years with close losses against Hungary (2008) and Italy (2009). It is Zakharov’s job to earn the promotion at the 2010 IIHF World Championship Division I Group A. The opponents will be Austria, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Serbia.
“Ukraine has always been a hockey country and I’m motivated to solve the problems in getting to the top division,” Zakharov said. “I’m confident that we will fulfil our task. I was shocked when I saw the Italy-Ukraine game in April and Ukraine lost despite playing much better.”
Zakharov will continue his job with Yunost Minsk, the current leader of the Belarusian league. “It won’t be a problem, I’m determined for both jobs. I will just lose my free time, but for me it’s a great honour and a big opportunity to work for the Ukrainian national team,” he said.
Zakharov called 38 players to a three-day national team camp in Kyiv. 25 players are from the country’s top club team Sokil Kyiv, which is currently in third place in the Belarusian Extraliga. Nine players come from other teams in Belarus and four players are from the Russian KHL.
The team will travel to Sanok, Poland, for two exhibition games against Poland.