Tezikov passes away
by Andy Potts|20 JUL 2020

Alexei Tezikov, World Junior silver medallist in 1998 and one of the first Russians to play for the Washington Capitals, passed away on July 16. The Togliatti-born defenceman was 42.
Tezikov learned his hockey with Lada Togliatti, the first team from outside of Moscow to become champion of Russia. Indeed, his first taste of the pro game was in 1995/96 when, aged just 17, he played 14 regular season games on a Lada team that went on to win its second national title. That year he was drafted by the Sabres and he remained in Russia for one more season before crossing the Atlantic for the 1997/98 campaign.

Suiting up for the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL, Tezikov made an immediate impact. His rookie campaign brought 48 (15+33) points in 60 regular season games and earned him the Raymond Lagace Trophy as the top defensive rookie of the year. He also enjoyed his first and only taste of international action.

Tezikov was a key member of Pyotr Vorobyov’s team at the World Juniors in Finland that year. A defensive lynchpin, he played in every game as Russia reached the final before losing in overtime to a Niklas Hagman goal for the host nation. His team-mates included future NHLers Andrei Markov, Vitali Vishnevski, Oleg Kvasha, Maxim Afinogenov and Artyom Chubarov. Tezikov would also play in the NHL, making his debut for the Capitals the following season after he was traded by Buffalo.

At that time, he looked to have a bright future. Andrei Nikolishin, a team-mate in Washington, compared Tezikov’s game to Kirill Koltsov, an unorthodox two-way defenceman who was twice a Russian champion with Salavat Yulaev Ufa. “Lyosha made unexpected decisions on the ice, a bit like Koltsov,” Nikolishin said in an interview with Sport-24. “He could conjure up a defence-splitting pass, he was a creative player. And he was big, strong, with a good a shot.”

However, the youngster struggled to translate his productivity in junior hockey into regular points in the NHL and ended up making just 30 appearances – 28 for Washington, two for Vancouver – in four seasons in the big league.

Tezikov returned home in 2003, and in eight seasons represented 10 clubs in the top two tiers of the country’s hockey structure. In his native Togliatti, he is best remembered for rushing to the aid of his hometown team when the famous old club was in the grip of a crisis.

Lada was kicked out of the KHL in 2010 due to a substandard arena and, with the global financial crisis hammering the auto manufacturer that traditionally bankrolled the hockey club, the future looked bleak. Tezikov came home to captain a youthful team through that turbulent season, earning the respect of everyone who worked with him.

One of his coaches, Sergei Vostrikov, told Sport-Express: “When Lada dropped into the VHL and the club had no money, Alexei himself asked to join the team."

“He said that he wasn’t interested in money, he just wanted to help the club. We called him, and he didn’t let us down. He agreed to play for a nominal salary and his experience helped a lot of our younger guys to mature.

“He was a big help for any coach, encouraging the youngsters to play and to put everything into their hockey. I remember him as an energetic guy who was never indifferent to the plight of his first team.”

After that season at Lada, Tezikov moved on again. In 2012 he helped Donbass Donetsk win the Ukrainian title and he also played in Belarus and Kazakhstan before hanging up his skates in 2015, at the age of 37. He later coached within Lada’s hockey school in the 2016/17 season.

On the morning of 16 July, he collapsed in the street. He passed away without regaining consciousness.

Alexei Tekizov’s funeral took place on Saturday, July 18, in his native Togliatti. He will be buried in the city’s Toazovskoye cemetery.