Milos Riha dead at 61
by Andy Potts|01 SEP 2020
Riha (center) was head coach of the Czech Repulic men's national team 

Czech coach Milos Riha has died at the age of 61, it was reported in Prague on 1 September.

Renowned as one of the game’s most passionate and colourful characters, he was working as head coach of the Czech national team until the season was halted due to the pandemic. On August 18, he was admitted to the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague. It was reported that his health had deteriorated sharply, but no details of his illness were released. 

The news was greeted with shock and dismay. Tomas Kral, president of the Czech Hockey Federation, said: “We knew the Milos Riha was in hospital, but the news of his death surprised and saddened us. Czech hockey has lost a very distinctive personality, a good player and a great coach. He proved himself not just at home, but also abroad. We will honour his memory.”

‘Remember the best of him’

Riha’s son, Milos Jnr, who worked as an assistant to his father on the Czech national team last season, told the iSport website: “The last month was a big struggle. I’m grateful to my whole family, and everyone who was with us and did everything they could for us. And, with all my heart, I’d like to thank my father for everything that he did for other people.

“I would like to ask everyone involved with hockey – fans and colleagues alike – to honour my dad’s memory and remember the best of him.”

Robert Reichel, an Olympic Champion in Nagano, was another of Riha’s assistants on the national team. He, too, spoke of his shock at the news. “We kept in touch and spoke regularly,” he said. “I didn’t know all the details, but I always believed that Milos would overcome his health problems. His death has hit me hard. When somebody passes at just 61 years of age, it’s a real tragedy.”

Reichel also spoke warmly of Riha’s leadership on the national team. “We had two wonderful years working together,” he told “He was a good guy, always fair. He had so much charisma, he was so full of life. And he didn’t let anything get him down, that’s what I liked about him the most.”

A charismatic star in two countries

As a player, Riha won a Czechoslovak championship in 1981 with Vitkovice of Ostrava. A hardworking centre, he was selected by Minnesota in the 1983 NHL draft but played his entire career in his homeland. However, it was as a coach that he made his greatest impact.

Riha began his coaching career in 1989 as a player/assistant coach with SHK Hodonin in the Czechoslovak third tier, helping the team to promotion. He then moved on to Zlin, in the top flight, where he had his first taste of life as a head coach when he replaced Josef Agusta during the 1993/94 season. By 1996 he was a full-time head coach with Pardubice and was named Czech Extraliga Coach of the Year in his first campaign after leading an underachieving team to a fourth-place finish.

His first trophy came in 2002, winning the Slovak championship with Slovan Bratislava, a feat he repeated in 2005. Riha was twice runner-up in his homeland with Pardubice, in 2003 and 2007. In between those campaigns he also went to Russia for the first time, coaching Khimik Mytishi in 2005/06. It was the start of another defining stage of his career.

In the early years of the KHL, Riha was one of the most prominent coaches in the Russia, noted for his vast appetite for the game and his hugely competitive teams, as well as his booming voice ringing out around the arena – usually in the direction of the officials. He began at Spartak Moscow and spent two seasons there. The club today remembered him as “lively, committed, impulsive and charismatic”. After leaving Spartak, he returned to Mytishi in 2010/11. As head coach of the renamed Atlant, with a young Sergei Mozyakin on the forward line, he guided the Moscow Region club to the Gagarin Cup final before losing to a Salavat Yulayev team inspired by Alexander Radulov and head coach Vyacheslav Bykov.

“Of course, I remember that final very well,” Bykov told “And, in general, we often talked after our games. He was an open, intelligent and interesting person. Not every coach can find his place in a foreign country, learn the language and respect a new environment. Milos showed that all this can be done, he proved it with his professionalism.

“Milos was always an extraordinary individual. He was impulsive and totally committed to his work, to which he dedicated his whole life. He had the spirit of a conqueror, a man who never gave up in the face of difficulty.”

Success with Atlant earned Riha a move to SKA St. Petersburg where, oddly, he was fired on Oct. 25 2012 despite his team topping the KHL table following a 4-3 win in his final game with the club. Later, he had a short time in charge at Avangard before returning to Slovan for the club’s final years in the KHL.

In 2018, after Slovan returned to the Slovak Extraliga, Riha moved away from club coaching and took charge of the Czech National team. At the 2019 World Championship in Slovakia, the Czechs came fourth, missing out on hardware after losing in a shoot-out against Russia in the bronze medal game.

Michal Repik, who played on that team as well as working with Riha at Slovan, said: “I have so many memories. Milos Riha was one of a kind and he truly loved hockey. He devoted his whole life to the game, as a player then as a coach. If he didn’t truly love the sport, he would never have been at the top for so long.”