Russia hires new hockey coach after Olympic disappointment

Oleg Znarok

Russia’s hockey federation named Latvian Oleg Znarok its hockey coach Wednesday, tasked with bringing the national team back up after an underwhelming quarterfinal exit at the Sochi Olympics.

Znarok, 51, led club team Dynamo Moscow to back-to-back Gagarin Cup titles in the KHL the previous two seasons. His deal to coach Russia runs through the 2018 Olympics, according to R-Sport.

He takes over for Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, who in Sochi led a Russian team hoping to win its first men’s hockey Olympic gold since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

But it stumbled after an opening 5-2 win over Slovenia, losing 3-2 to the U.S. in a shootout and needing another shootout to defeat Slovakia 1-0.

Russia blanked Norway 4-0 in the qualification playoffs but fell 3-1 to eventual bronze medalist Finland in the quarterfinals.

Bilyaletdinov had a memorable press conference with Russian reporters after the elimination. He said, among other sound bytes, “eat me alive right now.”

Znarok played for the USSR and, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, was captain of the Latvian national team. He later coached Latvia at the 2010 Olympics, where it lost all four of its games with the worst goal differential in group play.

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