Minutes after Russia won the 2014 World Championship, suspended head coachOleg Znarok made his way down to the ice to celebrate with his team. Znarok, who coached Alex Ovechkin in Dynamo Moscow, was immediately greeted by the Russian team captain. Ovechkin, grinning from ear to eat ear, waved over his teammates.
According to SovSport, Dynamo Moscow head coach Oleg Znarok has been named the new head coach of Team Russia. The news comes as no surprise; Znarok was pretty much the only candidate discussed in recent months. Ex-coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov failed to medal in Sochi, losing to Finland in the quarterfinals. Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored just one goal in the tournament, examplifying an overall disappointing performance by Team Russia’s stars.
Znarok has been a household name in Russian hockey since 2010, when his HC MVD Balashikha went on a Cinderella run to win the Western Conference only to lose in the finals to Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s Ak Bars Kazan. After a successful season by the Moscow suburb team, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is related to both clubs, merged Dynamo Moscow and HC MVD into UHC Dynamo Moscow (where “U” stands for “United”). HC MVD’s coaching staff and top players moved to the storied Russian franchise. Success followed soon thereafter: Dynamo won the 2012 Gagarin Cup, and then another one, in 2013, holding off Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Traktor.
Despite being a native of Ust-Katav (Chelyabinsk Region, Russia) and an ethnic Russian, Znarok’s dual Latvian-German citizenship makes him the de jure first-ever foreign coach in Team Russia history. His assistant, Harijs Vitolins, who will also step in as head coach for Dynamo, is an ethnic Latvian.
In 2008, Simon opted to have a clean slate and joined the KHL. He signed with the league’s toughest team, Vityaz Chekhov. Known as the “Indian” among Vityaz fans, Simon quickly became a fan favorite and was named captain of the team. With Vityaz, he participated in the mega-brawl against Avangard Omsk, which resulted in both teams accumulating 600 PIM and a cancellation of the match. However, Simon’s scoring totals steadily grew every year in the KHL (eight goals in 2008-09, 13 in 2009-10 and 16 in 2010-11) and he was recently named to the 2011 KHL All-Star Game. Rumors that he would be traded at the deadline were circulating and finally, five days before the All-Star Game, he was traded to UHC Dynamo Moscow, who were looking to add some grit to their line-up for the playoffs. The second seed in the East, Dynamo was upset by Dinamo Riga in the first-round in a heart-breaking six-game series. Shortly after, Sport-Express spoke with the former Cap.
Below the jump, RMNB’s Igor Kleyer has translated the rare Simon interview. The 39 year-old talks about what it was like to learn Russian, who helped him settle in with his new team and why he decided to become a “tough guy” in the first place.