MOSCOW – The Russian Hockey Federation has announced the release of national team head coach Vyacheslav Bykov and assistant coach Igor Zakharkin. A new coaching staff will be named later.
The Executive Committee of the Russian Hockey Federation met on Thursday morning and the first item on the agenda was the report of national team head coach Vyacheslav Bykov about the preparation for and the performance at the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.
The committee concluded that the performance at the 75th IIHF World Championship was not satisfactory and decided to terminate the contracts of Bykov and the assistant coach Zakharkin. All 17 committee members voted in favour of the release according to media reports.
The extension of the contract to include the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, depended on the result in Slovakia 2011. Russia finished fourth after losing the semi-final against Finland 3-0 and the bronze medal game to the Czech Republic 7-4.
Russia struggled in the event, losing for the first time against Germany (2-0) in the opener and also dropped the qualifying round games against the Czech Republic and Finland (both 3-2 losses) while earning hard-fought wins against Slovenia (6-4), Slovakia and Denmark (both 4-3).
Their best game of the championship was the 2-1 quarter-final win over Canada.
The Russian national team experienced a substantial upswing after the Bykov/Zakharkin duo took over five years ago. After the bronze in Moscow 2007, Russia won its first IIHF World Championship gold in 15 years in Quebec City in 2008 and they repeated the feat next year in Berne, defeating Canada twice in the final game.
In 2010 in Germany, the team was flawless until losing the gold medal game against the Czech Republic 2-1.
Bykov led Salavat Yulayev Ufa to the KHL championship this season. Before joining Salavat in 2009, Bykov was behind CSKA Moscow’s bench for five years.
As a player Bykov won two Olympic gold medals and four IIHF World Championship golds with the Soviet Union and Russia.
Hockey officials lobby for Bilyaletdinov
No successor has been named for Bykov, but reports in the media already started last week with names like Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, Olegs Znaroks or Czech KHL coach Milos Riha.
Among others, KHL President Alexander Medvedev and KHL Chairman of the Board, the former star defenceman Vyacheslav Fetisov, have both publically endorsed Bilyaletdinov for the position succeeding Bykov.
Bilyaletdinov has been the head coach with Ak Bars Kazan since 2005 winning the Russian championship in 2006, 2009 and 2010 and the European Champions Cup in 2007. He also coached his only club he represented as a player, Dynamo Moscow, and Swiss team HC Lugano. Bilyaletdinov was in the coaching staff of the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes organization from 1993 to 1997.
Born in Moscow as a son of Tatar parents, Bilyaletdinov represented the Soviet Union in eight IIHF World Championships (five golds, one silver, one bronze), two Olympic Winter Games (two golds) and three Canada Cups.
For the Russian national team he was the head coach at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and an assistant coach at the 1998 and 2002 Olympic Winter Games and the 2000 IIHF World Championship.