16.01.2018 в 13:18


We met with Krasnaya Armiya head-coach Rinat Khasanov at CSKA Ice Palace media center. We picked an armchair facing the room for him – that’s exactly where CSKA head-coach Igor Nikitin addresses reporters’ questions after the games. “I can’t sit there yet,” smiles Khasanov. “I don’t want to steal someone else’s job”. And it was for the best – sitting in front of each other in facing armchairs, we had a much more personal conversation, which is something rare to find at press-conferences. Rinat Ravilievich was very open about his star alumni, friendship with Pavel Trakhanov, working with Sergei Gimayev and his first call-up to Team Russia as a coach.


- You entered the 21st century as a player of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Pyotr Iliych Vorobyov was the head-coach back then.

- Vorobyov had this systematic approach – every practice was based on in-game battles and insane discipline. Pre-season was nothing but a 2-week survival camp. We would do an unreal amount of work and all practices were high-tempo. We had gym in the morning, followed by ice, barriers and another on-ice practice in the evening. Yaroslavl had a strong and experienced team back then. Yegor Podomatsky and Dmitry Krasotkin now coach Loko Yaroslavl. I run into them quite often during the season. We still have a good relationship.


- Lokomotiv tragedy must have really touched you.

- I couldn’t get to Yaroslavl right after the plane crash – I was at Pavel Trakhanov’s funeral in Moscow. I’ve known Pavel since CSKA junior hockey school. Sergei Nailievich Gimayev coached two teams – my CSKA-1972 and Pavel’s CSKA-1978. After graduation, we played for the same team a few times – we met on CSKA and HC MVD. We’d been good friends. We’d go fishing in the summer and called each other often. It’s very sad that he has passed away.


- Yaroslavl used to play their home games at Torpedo Sports Palace and not Arena-2000. That arena is now named after Sergei Alexeyevich Nikolayev.

- It’s great to see that people still remember him. Perhaps, it’s a bit pompous but I believe Nikolayev was one of the founders of Yaroslavl hockey. Not only he’s risen the team from the very bottom, he also made sure junior hockey school made a huge step forward.


- Why just Yaroslavl hockey? Nikolayev worked with many teams.

- I first met Sergei Alexeyevich in Novokuznetsk when we finished 2nd in the regular season, and then I worked with him at Salavat Yulaev and Sibir. He was an unusual person with a difficult temper. For example, he left Ufa with a scandal. Salavat was at 2nd place at the time but Nikolayev got in a fight with the management and they fired him.


- What was that conflict about?

- It’s just that Sergei Alexeyevich was very direct and honest about everything and people like that are not liked – although, these days everyone is diplomatic and cautious about what they say. But he cared deeply about everything, he had to control the team, school and let everybody around know what he thinks. However, I can’t remember a single person towards whom he might have been unfair.


- Your career crossed with Sergei Nikolayevich quite often. Was that a coincidence?

- I played for eight professional teams in my career. I was never a star player. I was a feisty average player. Although, I worked the most with Nikolayev. It was exciting to play under his command. The thing is I was very tenacious and I didn’t like losing, which were the qualities cherished by Sergei Alexeyevich.

- KHL’s inaugural season was the last one in your career.

- That was my first and last KHL season. First and last season for HC MVD, too. Back then the difference between KHL and Superleague wasn’t that obvious. Now, 10 years later down the road, you can see the difference. There are more games and the game schedule is tight. But most importantly – officiating has gotten a lot better thanks to the increase of the number of referees, video reviews and some changes in the rulebook.

- HC MVD was coached by Oleg Znarok at the time. People say that he almost had to drag his players all over the ice by the hand to make them understand his demands.

- Even though HC MVD was a pretty young team, it proved its worth having played a few seasons in the Superleague. So that is exaggerated. Oleg Valerievich didn’t drag anybody by the hand but he was a great motivator.


“I wanted to suspend Yaroslavl Dyblenko, who currently plays for New Jersey, a number of times”


- Take us through your transition from player to coach.

- It was fast and easy. I first thought about retiring when I was asked in an interview for HC MVD gameday brochure – Don’t you think you should think about taking up coaching? I was 37 years old at the time. I knew that one day I would have to retire – I never had a goal to play till the end and retire from some minor league at the age of 45. Sergei Nailievich Gimayev helped me a lot back then. I came to him seeking advice. I asked him where should I begin. He asked Alexander Viktorovich Biryukov to hire me as his intern. After that I went to CSKA junior hockey school practices for about 10 weeks without pay just to gain experience. We worked with 2003 year borns. The boys were in their second or third school year. So I had to start almost from scratch. I would watch practices and I would be amazed how much Biryukov was into those kids. After some time, he let me run the practices. And then he would show me my mistakes and put stress on vital moments.

- So it’s just the ten weeks that you spent as an intern?

- I was once contacted by Altant junior team head-coach Igor Zelenchev, who now works in CSKA organization. He invited me to be his assistant. Those two years in Mytischi were very interesting. There were all kinds of players. Nikita Soshnikov, who was on the team, now plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs, while Yaroslav Dyblenko is with the New Jersey Devils. Actually, we almost suspended Yaroslav a few times for being a screw-up. But he changed as he got older.

- You also had a few star alumni on Dynamo Moscow, didn’t you?

- You don’t get invited twice to such top schools as Dynamo and CSKA. So when I got an offer from Dynamo in 2011, I didn’t hesitate to take it. On Dynamo-1997 we had Gleb Kuzmin, who is now on Salavat Yulaev. Then we invited Artyom Volkov and Alexander Petunin. They’re both on Dynamo’s first team now. Sergei Zborovsky is now with the New York Rangers’ affiliate. As the matter of fact, it was a strong year. Dynamo-1997 represented Moscow at federal regional championships and made it to Russian championship final game a few times. We were also beating other Moscow teams in Moscow city open championship.


«Kaprizov has the will and character. Back in junior hockey school he would sometimes refuse to leave the ice until he scores»


- How long have you known Krasnaya Armiya players, who are currently under your command?

- I’ve known them since all the way back in 2014, when I was appointed the head-coach of CSKA-2000. I worked for three years with the team. Last season our management decided to rebuild Krasnaya Armiya so three 5-man units of my team were put on JHL team.


- How would you describe today’s Krasnaya Armiya?

- We have a few experience 1997 year born players and also a few rookies who were born in 2000. We have a lot of players who compete for Team Russia. This season they gained a great experience at Ivan Hlinka Memorial. This pre-season we won Junior Club World Cup – that was a huge experience for me, starting from making the cuts, since I had to put together a team from a pool of players of different ages. The high level of the tournament really helped me to get ready for Junior Hockey League regular season. I had a similar experience at World Junior A Challenge in December 2017.

- Nikita Makeyev and Nikita Rtischev were on your World Junior A Challenge team. Did they get to a new level of play after competing for Team Russia?

- Of course. Every game you play for national team is intense. After those games any matchup against a weaker opponent is easier. This is the goal CSKA put forward to our team, Krasnaya Armiya – we need to elevate our game to that level. We don’t demand results right here and right now. Our goal is to make sure our boys play consistently and develop. Then the result won’t be long. This season shows that we can play decent hockey facing top teams. We can see that our young players make progress.


- What’s more important to you – player development or trophies?

- Many teams begin to focus on their own alumni. So player development is what we put the focus on, too. CSKA junior school has a few promising teams and soon we will call up several players to compete for our major junior team. CSKA has a great club vertical, which allows the players to get new levels at the right time. Today the club has a structure, which allows you to objectively rate every player’s potential. If you do well in junior, you will join the VHL team. If you’re not good enough for the VHL, they’re going to send you back down to junior for further development.


- But Igor Nikitin has a lot of players in his rotation. Do you think CSKA is even going to need their Krasnaya Armiya players?

- This is what I believe – no matter how old you are, if you’re better and you show it, there’s going to be a place for you on the roster. For example, Vyacheslav Fetisov played for CSKA and Team USSR when he was 17.


- So then why do coaches fish for other schools’ alumni?

- Maybe they’re unhappy with the quality of their players. The club has scouts. Their goal is to find the best players to fit in the system. My job is to make sure we don’t need to get anybody else from the side. It’s something not just me but all CSKA junior hockey school coaches are concerned about.


- Another dilemma for a coach lies in whether or not they should let their young players compete at the high level, or do they play it safe?

- If you don’t let them play, how are you going to develop true leaders for your club and national team? You don’t think that Kirill Kaprizov is worse than anybody on CSKA, do you? He’s just as good as anybody on the team, even though he was born in 1997 and he has a long way to go in hockey. All of it because his great will, perseverance and character. Back in his junior hockey school days, there were times when he refused to leave the ice until he scores.