About the League
Atlanty Moscow Region hired their new head-coach for the first time in three years. Mytischi team will now be coached by Oleg Komissarov and Evgeny Yegrashin, led by Anrei Lunyov, who had worked in the VHL with Lipetsk, Saratov and Tambov. Lunyov also won the main trophy of VHL-B – Federation Cup – in 2018. In this in-depth interview Andrei Alexeyevitch shared with Moscow Region fans his profound player and coach experience, his further plans, Atlanty’s goals for next season, his take on his soccer name-sake and much more.
“I LIKE PASSING HOCKEY BUT TOUGH AND AGGRESSIVE”
– What are your first impressions on Atlanty major junior team? How do you like the team, city and current players so far?
- It’s been great. I have only positive emotions. I like the city and local arena is top notch. I don’t want to weigh in on the players yet. We saw the boys in action and made certain notes about the team’s upcoming training camp. Obviously, since I’m coming back to junior hockey from pro hockey, I still need to find the frame of reference. I need to find the level we need to be on to stay competitive.
- What is challenging for you in junior hockey and what team would you like to build? Perhaps, you have certain role models – teams you can model your squad after?
- Obviously, you always have to swing for the fences and follow KHL teams style. Personally, I like passing hockey but tough and aggressive at the same time. However, that’s just what modern hockey is like. The game is fast-paced, tough and with lots of physical contact. Under these conditions the players have to show their skill, find the right moves and make right decisions. That’s the beauty of the game.
- In your latest exhibition game against JHC Spartak Moscow your team had several beautiful passing plays to get behind the defense. On a number of occasions your players would have the goaltender beaten wide and get easy tap-ins. They won 5-3 in the end. Would you say that’s the preview for the kind of team you’re trying to build or what is it all about the individual skill of players, who want to show you what they’re capable of?
- I would say it’s the individual skill at this point. Our coaching staff has worked with the team for only a week. At the first team meeting we gave the players a rough look at our tactics and strategies we want them to follow. I’m far from thinking that everything is going to work right from the get-go, or a month, or a week – this is a work in progress and we need time for it to come together. In these exhibition games the players were mostly free to show off their individual skill. Actually, the only thing we had asked them to do was talk and give advice to each other both on the ice and on the bench. In certain situations, we also gave the players advice – some things had to be adjusted and we also wanted them to focus on several things individual skill-wise. At every team meeting I always told my players that right now their job is to show what they’re capable of and what they’re worth. As for us, coaches, our job is to weigh in on the input diligently. Based on how the players are going to show their worth, we’re going to make certain cuts and move on.
– How many players do you plan to try out at the camp? Usually the number of players exceeds a hundred or even more.
- We haven’t tried out a hundred players yet but we have seen about 50 men in action. We also have a lot of players shortlisted. The more we see – the better. Since we have the opportunity, it would be a crime to waste it. That’s the reason why we have already had four exhibition games with Junior Hockey School League players and boys who were born in 2001 and 2002. We saw them in action and selected those, who are going to continue working with us. Certainly, there those that we can and must keep working with.
- We won VHL-B championship title with HC Tambov and made it to VHL Playoffs with HC Lipetsk. Do you consider going back to junior hockey a step back for yourself?
- I have always told everyone – players and team management – that helping is every coach’s priority. I was taught to play hockey back in a day and since I have become a coach, I have considered my priority to help players develop and grow into better athletes as much as I my competence allows me. If you help players – you do your job right. That’s why I don’t consider joining a Junior Hockey League team a step back. On the contrary, young and promising players greatly pique my interest. It’s going to be great and prestigious if the team and players will get to the next level as a result of our cooperation.
- One of your former Kristall Saratov players, Ildar Shiksatdarov, has played a number of KHL seasons for Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. How satisfied are you that you helped him to get to a higher level?
- Yes, we did work a lot with Ildar. It’s great to see him do well now, he’s done a great job. He always stood out – even when he was in CSKA [Moscow] system. Although, everyone needs their time. It’s great that he managed to flourish on Neftekhimik and keeps moving forward.
“I DIDN’T CONSIDER COACHING WHEN I WAS STILL PLAYING”
– The highest point of your player career was, perhaps, playing for CSKA coached by legendary Viktor Vasilievitch Tikhonov in the 1993-94 season. What are your memories of those days? Did you by any chance use Tikhonov’s approach to coaching in one way or another?
- Here’s what I’m going to tell you – if someone were to tell me back then that I was going to become a coach, I would be rather surprised to put it lightly… There was nothing to even suggest that and I didn’t even play much for CSKA. Why? I have to admit that it was entirely my own fault. I took it for granted and wasn’t known to have great discipline. Only after retirement did I become a whole new person in terms of work ethic. I don’t regret that it turned out the way it did – it was a great lesson for my further life. I was one of the oldest players when I joined CSKA, which was a young and inexperienced but talented and ambitious team with Nikolai Khabibulin and Sergei Brylin who went on to win the Stanley Cup. We didn’t score a lot of points but, obviously, I cherish the fact that I had the chance to work with Viktor Vasilievitch Tikhonov and Viktor Grigorievitch Kuzkin, let them rest in peace. They never said anything just for sake of it. They always gave great advice. They were true legends. I also remember that when I played for CSKA I scored a goal against Spartak – the team that my father rooted for. I have also cheered for them ever since I was a kid.
– How would you introduce your assistants Oleg Komissarov and Evgeny Yegrashin?
- I have known Oleg Viktorovich since a really young age. He’s just a year my minor so we’re almost peers. There was a time back in the early 90’s when we played together for Lipetsk, which he joined from Spartak. He and I go way back. His spouse is also from Lipetsk – the city that became home to me. I also played together with Evgeny Vladimirovich for Dizelist [Penza]. Obviously, when I got the offer from Mytishi, I discussed it with him. To cut the long story short, we have all known each other for a long time. I know these men as good players and coaches. For instance, Oleg Viktorovich has worked long and well at Spartak junior hockey school. So he knows well the specifics of junior hockey. On top of that he has a profound player experience at a high level, including playing for Team Russia. Without a doubt, that’s going to help our group. He can always give our young players advice on how to play defense. In other words, we’re going to get better.
- What are your further plans prior to the season?
- The team will assemble on July 1st. We’re going to have a camp right here in Mytischi. After that – in late July or early August – we are scheduled to compete at a pre-season tournament in St. Petersburg. Also, we plan to play exhibition games in Mytischi against Taifun [Primorie Region] and Amurskie Tigry [Khabarovsk]. We’re almost definitely will play on the road against Krasnaya Armiya [Moscow] and Russkie Vityazi [Moscow Region]. As you can see, we have a lot of tough work ahead of us.
- While working with pro teams in VHL, have you had a chance to follow junior hockey in general and Junior Hockey League specifically?
- I can’t say that I followed it closely, but VHL teams cooperate with JHL teams in one way or another so we were getting decent young hockey players from there. VHL is a very young league now. The teams build their rosters around local JHL teams alumni, so I know that the level of the league is very good. My latest club HC Tambov didn’t have a Junior Hockey League affiliate. So we couldn’t get reinforcements from there – even local junior hockey school is only making its first steps. Nevertheless, we built a competitive team that won VHL-B championship in its second season and then stayed competitive in VHL, where almost every team get players from JHL and KHL. It was tough to compete against them in that regard. It looks like Atlanty have a similar situation going on but actually it’s not quite like that. While Tambov and many of its players had to make a debut at a higher level, Atlanty have been in Junior Hockey League for several years. Their core players have competed at the level and major junior team gets players from junior hockey school.
- Atlanty have one of the best support in Junior Hockey League. Understandably, they expect the team to make the playoffs with the new coaching staff, despite the great competition against the teams who have players with KHL and VHL experience under their belt. What would you say to the fans about their playoff expectations?
- It is my understanding that a fan is a man who supports the team through thick and thin, whether the team wins or loses. There was a time when Atlanty major junior team posted decent results, made playoff appearances and competed for medals. Right now, it looks like the team is struggling. Fans must be true to their team in good times as well as in bad times. Personally, I can only say one thing – we’re going to do our best to the extent of our skill and knowledge to bring joy to our fans. We have ambitious goals. As coaches, we came here first of all to achieve great results. It’s not going to be easy but to me as a coach it’s a challenge. The more difficult it is, the more exiting and prestigious it is to achieve the goal. So we kindly ask our fans to be patient and support us! We’re going to do our best to cheer you up more often than make you sad.
“I HAVE TO BECOME MORE FAMOUS THAN ZENIT GOALTENDER!”
– Seven years ago Atlanty enjoyed their best Junior Hockey League season as the team won bronze medals in Kharlamov Cup Playoffs. Alexander Kadeikin, Nikita Soshnikov, Roman Rukavishnikov, Igor Levitsky and Yaroslav Dyblenko were on the team, along with Artyom Dorofeyev and Artur Toporkov, who went on to play under your command for HC Tambov. Mytischi fans would be interested to know what you think about those players.
- To be honest with you, I didn’t know they had played here. A true professional always have to leave a piece of himself in whatever team he plays for in whatever city. He always has to give his team everything he’s got. Only that will help you achieve great results and become a professional, which is something every Junior Hockey League player should work towards. On my team, Artyom and Artur were playing on top lines and were true leaders of the team.
- While colleting information about you and googling ‘Andrei Lunyov hockey’, one still gets a lot of links to your soccer name-sake – Zenit St. Petersburg and Team Russia goaltender. Has the mix-up been a burden for you in recent years?
- No, never. I don’t pay much attention to it, it’s fine. I have a lot of room to grow. It means that I have to work towards becoming even more famous! It’s a sport of its own.
- Your birthplace is often listed as Kursk but sometimes it’s Lipetsk. Could you shine some light over the issue?
- I was actually born in Kursk and lived there for a long time – until Grade 2. I even signed up to a soccer school there. After that due to work our family moved to Lipetsk. That’s where my hockey career began when I was 10 years old. Despite the late start, I was a natural at hockey – greatly because of my physical condition. Lipetsk is not the city I was born in but I grew up there. I spent my entire adult life there. I graduated from sports school in Lipetsk. That’s where my family, friends and acquaintances live.
- Do you remember the exact moment you decided to become a coach?
- When I retired at the age of 30, I didn’t even touch my skates for three years. I didn’t go to the rink either – I was that fed up with hockey at the time. As I had already said, when I was a player I didn’t even think about becoming a coach. Then an old-timers’ hockey team emerged in Lipetsk. My friends invited me to play for the team. I started playing hockey again and got hired by a local junior hockey school as a coach. After some time I was offered to coach their junior team and then Lipetsk pro team as well. That’s how it all started.