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Multiple Years / Viktor Tikhonov - USSR Hockey Coach
One of the most familiar faces of Soviet Union hockey was the dour puss of coach Viktor Tikhonov who ran the Central Red Army club team and the Soviet National team with an iron fist and almost unchecked success for 20 years. Tikhonov was born on June 4, 1930. As a player, Tikhonov was a defenceman with the Soviet Air Force and Dynamo Moscow clubs, but he wasn't well known internationally until he became the head coach of both the Central Red Army team and the Soviet Union's national team in 1977. At one point Red Army won 13 consecutive Soviet Elite League titles--which isn't all that surprising considering Tikhonov had the authority of a Red Army general and could immediately draft any player into the armed forces if he showed promise. The USSR won eight IIHF world titles under Tikhonov plus Olympic gold medals in 1984, 1988 and 1992. The USSR's national team also won the 1979 Challenge Cup and 1981 Canada Cup. Tikhonov had power over his players' lives and used it to control every aspect of his team. They routinely trained together for 50 weeks per year while living in army barracks. Canadian hockey great Phil Esposito said the so-called Soviet "amateurs" were more professional than NHL players. Humorless and ruthless, Tikhonov was known for his dictatorial coaching style. He exercised control over his players' lives. His expected absolute obedience--or else. His players quietly called him "the last Stalinist." With tongue-in-cheek humor, western media often referred to Tikhonov as "Chuckles." Tikhonov constantly feared his players would defect if they ever got the slightest chance. Anyone he merely suspected of defecting would be left off teams planning to travel outside the Iron Curtain. In 1991, for instance, he cut Pavel Bure, Valeri Zelepukin, Evgeny Davydov, and Vladimir Konstantinov just before the 1991 Canada Cup. All of them had been drafted by NHL teams, and Tikhonov suspected they were flight risks. Even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tikhonov stayed on as the national team coach of Russia for a few more years, but the newer players rebelled against his harsh authoritarian ways. Tikhonov mellowed slighty before going into retirement in 1996. After his retirement, Tikhonov lobbied the Russian government for more attention and better financing for the national team. His grandson plays on the current Russian national squad. Tikhonov died in November 2014.