Women’s Hockey Update: July 17th, 2017
Clips and Comments from one of Agidel Ufa’s early training camp sessions last week.
As the Women’s Hockey League teams, and the Russian women’s national team, get down to on-ice business for the upcoming season, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at the league’s coaches. So read on, for a team-by-team look at the people behind the benches, and for a pieces of news from the last week-and-a-bit.
Without further ado, the current head coaches of the Women’s Hockey League:
Agidel Ufa — Denis Afinogenov: A former journeyman forward whose playing career took him to various leagues (and, once, to the World Championship tournament as a member of the Russian national team), Afinogenov found administrative work in Russian amateur hockey after hanging up his skates in 2008. Now 43, the Ufa native was hired by Agidel in December of 2016, and so far his first head-coaching gig has yielded two straight silver medals. The task before him now, of course, is to go one better and unseat Tornado Moscow Oblast from the top of the league, and Agidel certainly have the talent to do it. Staff: Sergei Trudakov (Ass’t).
Arktik-Universitet Ukhta — Andrei Anisimov*: The 54-year-old Anisimov has been involved with the Russian women’s hockey program almost since its beginning. After his minor-league playing career ended, he joined the staff at Spartak-Merkury Yekaterinburg in 1995, and spent nearly all of the next 20 years there. He also served as an assistant with the women’s national team at a number of tournaments, including the 2002 Olympics. He remained in Yekaterinburg when Spartak-Merkury became SK Sverdlovsk Oblast, and was serving as head coach there when Arktik-Universitet hired him away in the summer of 2016. Staff: Unknown at present.
* – Arktik-Universitet have not yet announced their pre-season plans for 2017-18, so it is possible that Anisimov will not be back. However, I have seen no reports yet that a coaching change is in the works, and will certainly update if and when I do!
Biryusa Krasnoyarsk — Alexander Vedernikov: Another former minor-league player, Vedernikov is entering his third season in charge in central Siberia, during which time Biryusa have become a solidly competitive team in the Women’s Hockey League (the bronze-medal finish in 2015-16 bears witness). The Russian Hockey Federation has taken note, too: the 47-year-old Vedernikov joined the coaching staff of the women’s national team earlier this year, and served as an assistant at Universiade and at the Women’s Worlds. Staff: Valery Tripuzov (Senior Coach)
Dynamo St. Petersburg — Alexander Zybin: The 57-year-old Zybin was a forward with Central Red Army during the heady 1980s days of Larionov, Makarov, et al, and his coaching career began in men’s hockey with Kristall Saratov in 2000. It was as coach of the junior men’s team that he joined Dynamo in 2013. Last season was his first as head coach of the Dynamo women’s squad, and it was a good one, too; a first-ever top-three finish was the team’s final result. However, Zybin was recently appointed head coach of Russia’s U18 men’s national team, so how long he remains in charge at Dynamo is an open question — I have thoughts below on a possible future replacement! Staff: Yuliya Karpova (Senior Coach), Alexander Yanushevich (Fitness).
SK Sverdlovsk Oblast — Yuliya Perova: When the afore-mentioned Anisimov departed for Ukhta last summer, the coaching reins in Yekaterinburg were passed to the 46-year-old Perova. A forward on Russia’s first-ever Women’s Worlds team in 1997, and a winner of national championships with CSK VVS Moscow in the early days of the Women’s Hockey League, she had been serving as head coach of Sverdlovsk Oblast’s U18 women’s team prior to her promotion to the senior team (she has also worked with the Russian Hockey Federation). One of these days, the Sverdlovsk Oblast team will end its long losing streak (four years and counting), and it would be nice to see it happen under Perova’s tenure. Staff: Irina Votintseva (Ass’t).
SKIF Nizhny Novgorod — Vladimir Golubovich: Golubovich, at 63 the oldest Women’s Hockey League head coach, arrived at SKIF just this past February with a resume that contains two decades of coaching at the top levels of Russian men’s hockey (his playing career, as a forward mostly with Dynamo Moscow and Sokol Kiev, was a good one too). A Nizhny Novgorod native, Golubovich was head coach of the city’s Torpedo club in the KHL in 2010-11 (he was also in charge of KHL side Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk from 2011-13). SKIF possess a nationally-dominant U18 program, but have slipped from the heights of the Women’s Hockey League in recent years; Golubovich’s hiring is a clear sign of ambition for a return to championship contention. Staff: Irina Gashennikova (Goalies).
Tornado Moscow Oblast — Alexei Chistyakov: Chistyakov is currently the longest-tenured coach in the Women’s Hockey League, having first been in charge of Tornado in 2009. He is also now pulling double-duty: 2016-17 was his first campaign as head coach of the Russian women’s national team. The former journeyman forward, now 48, has guided Tornado to three straight championships, and it will be interesting to see if he can handle the pressure of an Olympic year for Team Russia while maintaining the success at club level. Staff: Alexei Zherebtsov (Senior Coach), Sergei Kostyukhin (Goalies).
Obviously, one would like to see more women in those coaching positions, and there may be some good news coming on that front. A name to watch as an up-and-coming coach in Russian women’s hockey is that of Yuliya Karpova, currently serving as senior coach (top assistant, more or less) at Dynamo St. Petersburg. Karpova, 33, retired from playing defence for Dynamo after the 2015-16 season, and right away stepped behind the bench as Alexander Zybin’s coaching understudy. Given that Zybin, as discussed above, now has coaching duties with the Russian U18 men’s team (he has also been assisting with Dynamo’s team in the men’s professional VHL), it will be no surprise if we find Karpova in charge of the Women’s Hockey League team at some point down the road. Whatever happens, a head-coaching job somewhere is almost assuredly in her future, and probably her not-too-distant future at that. Said Karpova in a 2017 interview: “…I want to continue to grow [as a coach], to face more serious challenges, and solve them.”
Karpova’s hockey roots, incidentally, run as deep as anyone’s in the world. Her grandfather, Nikolai Karpov, was a defenceman in the early years of hockey in the USSR (he played at the 1960 Olympics), and later coached Spartak Moscow to the Soviet Championship title in 1975-76. Her father Sergei also patrolled the blue line in the Soviet Championship, most notably for Khimik Voskresensk in the 1980s. “I spent all my life at the rink,” said Karpova in 2015, “…so I always had the desire to play hockey.” It is no surprise that her daughter has now taken up the game, playing on a boys’ team at the SKA-Gazprombank St. Petersburg club.
Moving away from coaches — past, present, and future — and to a bit of transfer news from the Women’s Hockey League. Forward Alexandra Neryueva, who spent the last two seasons in Ukhta with Arktik-Universitet, has signed a contract with SK Sverdlovsk Oblast for the coming campaign. The 21-year-old Neryueva scored 6-6-12 in 53 games over her time with Arktik-Universitet.
A bit of news on a now-retired Women’s Hockey League alumna: Zuzana Tomčíková, who from 2012 to 2014 tended goal for Tornado Moscow Oblast, has been named General Manager of the Slovak women’s national team. Tomčíková was a national-team regular for Slovakia from 2002 to 2013, including at the country’s only women’s hockey Olympic appearance in 2010. She was named MVP and best goalie of the 2011 Women’s Worlds.
We will finish off with a bit of an odd story involving the nascent women’s hockey program at KHL club Kunlun Red Star Beijing. As mentioned here back in mid-June, Kunlun Red Star’s women’s team, based in Shenzhen, is slated to play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League this coming season. Now, however, it appears that there may actually be TWO Chinese CWHL teams in 2017-18, both associated with the KHL club and both playing out of Shenzhen. This is where things get confusing; the CWHL itself tweeted out that news the other day, but has since deleted the tweet. However, two CWHL teams are indeed listed at Kunlun Red Star’s website: Kunlun Red Star Shenzhen and Vanke Red Star Shenzhen.
More clarity is obviously needed here. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out The Ice Garden for more coverage of this story as it develops.
Thank you for reading!