MOSCOW (AP) — Oleg Znarok has stepped down as coach of the Russian men’s hockey team less than two months after leading it to its first Olympic gold medal in 26 years.
Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak told Russian news agencies that Znarok “got tired psychologically” and will be replaced by Ilya Vorobyov for next month’s world championship, though he will still work with the team as a consultant.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the switch would be permanent.
Playing as “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” Znarok’s team beat Germany 4-3 in overtime for the gold medal in PyeongChang at the first tournament since 1994 without NHL players.
The last Russian team to win gold was the post-Soviet Unified Team in 1992. Znarok’s was the first to win gold exclusively representing Russia.
Znarok, 55, was hired in March 2014 to replace Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, who in Sochi led a Russian team that underwhelmed and was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Znarok played for the Soviet Union and, after its breakup, 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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Alex Ovechkin and Russian hockey coach Oleg Znarok made throat-slashing gestures toward a camera while celebrating Russia’s gold medal at the World Hockey Championships, after Znarok had been suspended for the final following a throat-slash gesture toward a Swedish assistant in the semifinals.
Without Znarok at the helm, Russia beat Finland 5-2 for gold in Minsk, Belarus, on Sunday, partially making up for a disastrous Olympic showing.
Znarok rejoined the team and Ovechkin afterward. Next to Znarok, Ovechkin essentially says, “Here it is,” and lifts his gold medal in the above video.
The Latvian Znarok was hired in March to replace Olympic coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, who guided the Russians to a quarterfinal exit in Sochi.
Znarok and Swedish assistant Rikard Gronborg argued after a hit late in Russia’s 3-1 win over Sweden in the semifinals Saturday. Znarok made a throat-slashing gesture toward Gronborg during the exchange.
Both coaches were suspended for Sunday’s gold- and bronze-medal games, respectively, with the IIHF providing this explanation.
In the case of Znarok, he was found to be in violation in accordance with IIHF Rule 551 D)3 for making an obscene gesture to Gronborg.
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Russia’s new hockey coach expects to win the World Championships in May and that if the Russians lose, they “need to lose well.”
Latvian Oleg Znarok outlined his plans for the Russian National Team at a press conference Friday. Znarok, 51, took over for Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, who guided the team to a disappointing quarterfinal exit at the Sochi Olympics.
“I can say that no one will be ashamed of the Russian national team,” Znarok said, according to R-Sport. “The guys are going to fight to the end, I guarantee it. Even if the team loses, we need to lose well.”
Znarok previously led club team Dynamo Moscow to back-to-back Gagarin Cup titles in the KHL.
His reported deal is to coach Russia through the 2018 Olympics, but the next big event is the World Championships, May 9-25 in Minsk, Belarus. Russia was also eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 2013 World Championships.
“We should win the World Championships,” Znarok said, according to R-Sport. “Other plans simply don’t exist.”
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