Before the games between Dinamo Riga and CSKA and SKA in Zurich within the KHL World Games project, KHL.ru talked with Vyacheslav Bykov, a well-known coach in both Russia and Switzerland.
- The KHL is discovering Switzerland, the country where you live. Do you think that Swiss fan will be interested in the KHL World Games?
- I’ve been contacted multiple times by journalists, who invite me to TV shows and ask for interviews. Everyone wants to know the details. I understand it as I played for CSKA and coached the team, then I also coached SKA. I also played in Fribourg, and I am now part of the team’s board. My son plays there. That’s why the press sees me as a bridge between countries within this project.
There will be a significant interest, that’s without a doubt. In Swiss, people talk about the KHL for many years. The Swiss love hockey and try to stay up to date. Fans will be very interested in watching teams from the KHL. But how the games will be advertised in Zurich is a different matter. I don’t live there, but I hope that the arena will be packed with fans.
- I have been in Zurich only once, during the 2009 IIHF World Championship.
- Back in those days, the World Championship was in the nearby town, Kloten. The KHL will play at the Hallenstadion, which holds 11,200 spectators and is home to the local ZSC Lions. The arena is big, and beautiful. However, personally, I would have preferred if the KHL teams played in Bern.
- That’s where you won the gold medal in 2009.
- Yes, but the situation there is particular. Recently there were Champions Hockey League games, where Bern faced Swedish side Malmo. The local arena can host more than 16,000 fans – it’s the biggest arena in Europe – yet it was filled only at one-quarter of its capacity.
Zurich is a good choice. People love hockey there, and the Lions were the finalists last year. They have an outstanding team, and the airport is close. An international city, where you can easily attract spectators. And also, VIPs – Zurich homes the International Ice Hockey Federation.
- According to the official stats, among European leagues, the league with the highest attendance is the German DEL. In the second place, the Swiss National League. Why?
- These countries – and so the Scandinavian ones – are very conservative. The local public is accustomed to their habits; they attend the derbies and the games with the most important rivals. Here the distances are limited; fans can easily participate in away trips. Switzerland is pretty much as big as the Moscow Region is. You take a car from the train station to Voskresensk, or Mytischi, or maybe even to Chekhov, watch the game and get back home.
Moreover, these leagues are pretty level; there isn’t a huge gap between teams. The games are exciting, and the level isn’t bad at all. In Switzerland, people know a lot of things about hockey. This means that the KHL games won’t be attended by amateurs, but by experts of our beloved sport.
- Are there CSKA and SKA fans in Switzerland?
- When I played, there were many fans. People were wearing CSKA jerseys with the “Bykov” name on the back. The national team is always popular there, so was CSKA. That is, there were fans, and maybe some of them remained. There are also many Russian expats from Moscow and St. Petersburg; they will support KHL teams.
Moreover, in Zug, there are many representative offices of Russian companies, and it’s close to Zurich. This means that many people from there may attend the games. In this region, there is a lot of potential to attract spectators.
- We can’t forget about Dinamo Riga. Slovan in Vienna was playing almost at home, while for Dinamo will be a true away trip.
- That’s true; however, in the past, we would see a trip to Latvia pretty much as a trip to a foreign country. The Republic is a tranquil place, and Poland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark are nearby. I would describe Latvia pretty much as the Switzerland of the former USSR. But only if we don’t talk about nature. To me, the closest to nature’s beauty of Switzerland is my native Ural Mountains.
As far as I can remember, Dinamo Riga always played an interesting style. An uncomfortable opponent. I think that even in Zurich, defeating Dinamo won’t be easy.
- Can you tell us about your plans? Will we see you in the KHL once again? Or did you quit?
- Why? I can certainly work in the KHL again. Ne jamais dire jamais.
- Oh, is it French? What does it mean?
- Never say never.
- But you probably won’t accept to coach a middle-of-the-pack team like Traktor or Admiral.
- Why are you deciding for me? I am enjoying coaching kids right now. Igor Zakharkin and I are also collaborating with Ak Bars academy. Also, don’t you remember that we worked with the Polish national team?
It’s not important what given club you are coaching. It’s important what you can transmit to the players. When you see that a kid’s eyes light up – that’s such a feeling! You are developing people, helping them believe in themselves. I have never boasted of my working with the national teams, and never will.
- So you’re about to get back?
- I’m not ready yet, although I was contacted by Avangard last spring. It was a terrific offer. Generally speaking, there are enough good coaches in Russia, now I am there, where people need me the most. If you want to be a good coach, you need to dedicate 100% of your time. Nothing can distract you. I want to work, and not just get my head spinning with different thoughts. Hopefully, my time will come again.