Mir novostey explains why Ilya Kovalchuk was appointed general manager of the Russian national team, although he has not yet completed his playing career.
And what kind of coaching staff did Alexei Zhamnov announce with an eye on the Beijing Olympics – with whom will we win hockey?
OUR HOCKEY IS A FIGHT CAMP
At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, the Russian national team won gold – for the first time in 26 years we became champions. But the NHL hockey players did not play at that Korean tournament. Now they will go to the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. Russia will defend its title of reigning champions. And so at a council with the participation of representatives of the federation, as well as influential forces, it was decided to give the Olympic team to Alexei Zhamnov, a former player, and now a coach and functionary.
I must say that in our hockey there are several strong trends associated with big businessmen and the inner circle of the President of Russia. There is a CSKA camp represented by Igor Sechin. There is the KHL and Spartak camp represented by Gennady Timchenko. There is a federation camp headed by Arkady Rotenberg, and Vladimir Potanin is the general sponsor. And there is the SKA camp, which is closely connected with the national team and the federation, where Roman Rotenberg, the nephew of Arkady Rotenberg, is in charge.
This must be understood in order to correctly assess all these permutations and appointments in the Russian national team.
WHO PROMOTED ZHAMNOV
So the SKA camp went with the candidacy of Oleg Znark as the head coach of the Russian Olympic team. And that is why the president of the FHR Vladislav Tretyak hastened to announce Znark as the main one.
But the rest of the camps did not support this candidacy – not even because Znarok did not suit them with something, but because they wanted to promote their people.
At a large meeting, where all the camps gathered, many candidates were discussed. As a result, he won the KHL and Spartak camp, where Zhamnov works, for Timchenko he is like his own son. It was decided to give carte blanche to Alexei for the formation of the Olympic team. As a result, Zhamnov chose the following structure: he took CSKA president Igor Esmantovich and KHL vice-president Valery Kamensky as his advisors. You understand what camps they belong to.
The head coach’s assistants were Sergei Fedorov (CSKA camp), Alexei Kudashov (Moscow Dynamo camp, to which Arkady Rotenberg has an influential relationship), as well as two overseas specialists – Sergei Gonchar and Evgeny Nabokov. They work in the NHL. Potter was the defensive coach when Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup. Nabokov is a goalkeeper coach at San Jose. Given that this will be the NHL Olympics, the selection of candidates seems perfect.
WHAT KOVALCHUK WILL DO IN THE TEAM
Let’s go back to the figure of Ilya Kovalchuk, whom Zhamnov made the general manager. Moreover, Roman Rotenberg, with whom the 2018 Olympics was won as the head of staff, on the one hand, seems to be relegated to the shadows. But on the other hand, Rotenberg Jr. goes to the Olympics as the person in charge of the national team for various organizational issues.
At the same time, Kovalchuk will not get involved in coaching matters; Zhamnov’s headquarters will take care of this. Then why is Ilya needed?
Until recently, there was not even a hint that such a turn would take place in his fate. Kovalchuk trained hard, skated on the ice, was engaged in general physical training at Luzhniki. Yes, he didn’t have a good option in the NHL. But finding a team in the KHL, having signed a contract for 50-80 million rubles per season, would not have been difficult for Ilya – there would be a queue of clubs for Kovalchuk in our league.
But in the end, Alexey Zhamnov announced that Ilya Kovalchuk was becoming the general manager of the Russian Olympic team. “I had a long conversation with him. The experience that he has: he participated in five Olympics, knows all the guys from the NHL and the KHL. It’s priceless. Kovalchuk knows many things about every hockey player, and this will be a big plus. There was an experience in history when a player ended his career and became a general manager. This is Pavel Bure at the Turin Olympics. Now Kovalchuk will concentrate on working as a manager. This season he will not be a player, and what’s next is his decision. “
Yes, Kovalchuk received an offer that could not be refused. This season he will work as a hockey functionary, and next season he can safely return as an active player in the KHL. After all, Ilya himself said that it was too early for him to end his career at 38 years old.
It will be an ingenious and unique move. We do not know of a stronger characteristic player who knows how to keep the locker room than Kovalchuk. Moreover, it makes no sense to take him to the Olympics as an acting hockey player. The forward is already at the retirement, has not had a game practice for a long time.
So Kovalchuk will be responsible for communication with the players, playing the role of the second captain. The first, we are sure, will be Alexander Ovechkin.
Well, Ilya can make an incredible somersault, winning the Olympics, first as a hockey player (2018), then as general manager (2022), and then continue his playing career in the KHL or even head the federation. Because Tretyak will turn 70 in April 2022.
Once again, take Russian hockey as a struggle of many camps and a course of different streams. In such a scenario, any miracles are possible.
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