Following the disappointing world championship campaign in Slovakia, the Russian Hockey Federation executive committee has decided to terminate the contracts of head coach Vyacheslav Bykov and his assistant Igor Zakharkin.

The meeting began at 9:30, and after only an hour RHF president Vladislav Tretyak emerged to announce the committee’s decision: “The performance of the national team at the Bratislava world championship was considered unsatisfactory and so the contracts of the coaching staff will not be extended.”

Vyacheslav Bykov was far from being astonished by the news: “The decision was understandable, since we had performed poorly in the tournament. We discussed the reasons for the failure, presented a new program, told them what we needed, but it didn’t persuade the committee. Nothing we can do now except plan our vacations.”

The departing head coach did not seem too depressed, and said there had been more positives than negatives during his time as the national team boss: “We won medals several years in a row and we made Russia world champions again. I’m grateful to all who helped us and I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to my players. I’ll also say that, I will always support our national team and I wish it success.”

Nothing official has been said regarding Bykov’s replacement, although Vladislav Tretyak promised the position will be filled before the start of the new season. The strong favorite is Ak Bars boss Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, and the Kazan club’s vice president, Ravil Shavaleyev, was a guest at the meeting, but he quickly dismissed any possibility of Bilyaletdinov coaching both club and country. “Of course, all will be decided by the club president, but we’re highly unlikely to agree to the coach combining the two jobs. Coaching the national side is completely different to club work: the coach has different tasks, needs to travel around to watch players both here and across the ocean, and it is impossible to do all this while coaching a club.”

Shavaleyev also underlined that he would not divulge anything official about any offer to Bilyaletdinov.

President of the KHL and member of the RHF committee, Alexander Medvedev, agreed that Bilyaletdinov would be an excellent choice for the post, but mentioned that there were other candidates: “We will be talking to other candidates. A lot depends on our discussions with the Kazan club. The new coach should not combine roles – on that our position is clear.”

Clearer still was the announcement from Vyacheslav Fetisov, chairman of the KHL board: “We’ve already had talks with Zinetula Bilyaletdinov about taking the job, and there is interest from his side. We have also started putting a crew together to work with the national team. We might bring in people such as Alexander Mogilny, Sergei Fedorov, and Valery Kamensky.”

The specialists who attended the meeting and unanimously voted to terminate Bykov’s contract were not satisfied with the performance of the coach. “His report was very weak,” thought Dynamo Moscow vice president Vitaly Davydov. “We heard nothing about how the coach intended to change the situation. And overall, he just gave the impression that everyone was to blame except him.”

In his time as head coach, Bykov led the national side to bronze at the Moscow 2007 world championship, followed by gold in Quebec 2008 and Berne 2009 and silver in Cologne 2010. Under Bykov Russia became world champions for the first time since 1993.

Alexei Shevchenko, special to


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