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A great interview with Yakushev

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01-02-2017, 08:20 PM
  #1
Sentinel
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A great interview with Yakushev

Excerpts from the recent Alexander Yakushev inteview in Sport-Express, translated by me.



=======
Are you mad at the inaccuracies and belittling of your achievements in the movie "Legend #17"?

Oh, please. It's a good and much needed film. Especially for the young: athletes and fans. The plot is focused on the duet of Player Kharlamov and Coach Tarasov. Other great players are not mentioned.

Your friend Phil Esposito is portrayed as some kind of a gorilla. Does he know about it?

Yes. I gave Phil some details about the movie and he got interested. "I'll be sure to watch!" Next time I saw him I asked: "Have you seen it?" Esposito laughed: "Yes. I laughed so hard when I saw me!" He took it in good humor, no hard feelings.

How did you two become friends?

Not during the series, for sure. It happened when we started visiting Canada for the anniversaries of the Super Series. The 15 Year Anniversary in 1987. This was the last time Vladik Tretiak played in goal. We saw each other a lot since, in various anniversary and veteran matches. Once we played in Donetsk, when there was a KHL club there and no war. When he comes here or I go to Canada, we meet up and discuss everything with great pleasure. I speak no English, so we use an interpreter.

Playing for veterans, do you wish you had this kind of equipment during your own playing years?

The sticks, the skates, the pads, all uniform became several times lighter! And sturdier too. A puck hits your gloves or the pads -- doesn't hurt at all! I can't even compare the wooden sticks we used to today's. It's like half the weight! Great progress!

I actually lucked out with skates. Fate had it that I began playing in real CCM skates before anybody else. In the 1966-67 season, on the verge of my 20th birthday, I came to Canada with the second national team, I was hit in the back and sent flying into the boards, feet first. Broke the skate, but there was a long series ahead of us. I went to our delegation chief, and his reply was: "I got no money for you. Use your own money." We were issued $100 for the duration of the 20 day trip (meals were provided by the hosts). I really wanted to play, so I went to the store and bought a pair. It cost $77; I remember like it was yesterday. The second national used domestic skates, so everybody was curious about them, but not many people wanted to spend their own money. So $23 remained for chewing gum and stuff. I skated in them for two years. Then I joined the first national team, which used Canadian skates.

When a Canadian journalist ate a newspaper in 1972, were you there?

Heh, of course! I was there. We just moved from Montreal to Toronto before Game 2, he came to our hotel and asked to invite all players. When we gathered, he ripped the paper into small pieces, threw into a bowl of soup and ate it. A man of his word. We laughed, applauded, and screamed "Good man! 'Ataboy!"

After Paul Henderson's goal, did coach Vsevolod Bobrov really say: "Show-offs! First time I'm seeing people refusing a new car!"?

I don't remember exactly, but I do remember him calling us "show-offs". There was no major reprimand. I think we lost the series not in Game 8, but after Game 5. We all thought that we'll take one game out of three for sure. Both coaches and players believed it. So we settled down. We forgot that Canadians are Canadians, that they fight to the last minute in every game. Which they proved with last goals in goals after going down 3-5 in the third period. We didn't pull our hair out in the dressing room, although we were upset, of course.

A little time passed, and everybody realized that we played well, on high level. Showed quality hockey, which everybody loved, including Canadian fans. Btw, I must give due to their objectivity.

Were you nicknamed "Yak-15" during the Super Series?

Yes. One Canadian journalist came up with it, and so it went. I don't remember who was it.

Fighter Yak-15 entered production in mid-40s and lasted till mid-50s. You didn't get a chance to fly on yourself, did you?


No, not really. I flew on Yak-40 and Yak-42. Namesakes never failed me. Which cannot be said of other planes, like Il-62.

Wayne Gretzky recalls how his dad massaged his frozen toes. Did your parents take similar care of you?

No. Oddly enough, in 17 seasons that I played in Spartak and in the national teams, my parents never attended a single game. Two older brothers came a few times, but they weren't fans either. In fact, my parents even hid my uniform so I wouldn't play. Mom said it was bad for me and could cause injuries. But in our tiny apartment it was hard to hide things, so I would get up at 7am, find the stuff, and leave. I started playing at 12 y.o. so I could take care of myself already. Later they came to terms with me playing. I tried inviting them a few times, but it never worked.

You could've become a soccer player, right? You worshipped Igor Netto.

Yes. I played midfield, and Netto's style was a gold standard for me. I was a huge fan of soccer Spartak, especially in mid-50s, when they became champions and later, as part of the Olympic team, won the gold in Melbourne. One of the main examples of heroism in sport for me was when Nikolai Tischenko who with a broken collar bone played in the semi-finals against Bulgaria and was a key part of the scoring rush. I worship people like that.

Have you ever played with a serious injury?

In the 1974 Super Series against WHA. In Game 3 I sprained my knee and in the final five games I played after injections. Feelings less than pleasant.



Chris Chelios once said that the best defenseman he ever faced was Alexei Kasatonov. Who was the toughest opponent for you?


Valery Vasiliev of Dynamo.

Who do you think are the best players of all time?

Statistically, the best Canadian player by far is Gretzky, but I personally find Bobby Hull's style more appealing. From defensemen -- great Bobby Orr. His game and his skill are actually very close to our Fetisov. I consider Slava to be the best Russian defenseman ever. There were lots of brilliant forwards, so it's hard to choose the best. But in talent alone, I would choose Vsevolod Bobrov. He was a genius, in both soccer and hockey.

He was also the coach that lead you to your greatest successes. You became the Soviet champion for the first time and went through both Super Series.

He played a huge role in my sports life. I was very fortunate to meet him. He and Arkady Chernyshev were similar in views, practice styles, and player relations. Despotic Anatoly Tarasov was their complete opposite. They all are great coaches though. But different. Tarasov was treated harshly by the players. Like he treated them. Even though he was one of the greatest coaches in the world, of all time. But his training process and his drills were quite unique.

What was his most fantastic drill?

"Hit a Canadian." You had to ram the boards with your shoulder, not just in full speed, but in full acceleration. He would carefully watch so nobody would hit the brakes. That was his way of forming fearlessness in combat. I never saw such exotics anywhere else.

Bobrov and Tarasov couldn't stand each other.

It's no secret that their mutual dislike formed way back when Bobrov was the main star of Red Army, and Tarasov was his coach. Nothing changed since.

Is it fair to say that Bobrov was your favorite coach?

Yes. I always said that. When he coached Spartak, after a practice he could shoot, dribble, do a breakaway, and we just stood and watched with our eyes wide open. But he never told even the most mediocre player: "See, when I was your age..." He completely removed his ego of a great player. From the pedagogical standpoint it worked very well.

Even though he came from the Army, he was accepted in Spartak?

With open arms. Not just by the players, but by the fans too. He was a player of such magnitude, that fans of every team treated Bobrov with reverence. He wasn't just a talent, he was a monster! His universality was also amazing: equally talented in soccer and in hockey.

One of the greatest secrets of our sport is the departure of Bobrov from the Spartak hockey club to the CSKA soccer club right after Spartak won the championship in 1967.

After we won the title, we had one last team meeting. Bobrov got up and said "Unfortunately -- such is life -- I have to announce that I am leaving the club." We were shocked. It was a silent scene. There was a tear in his eye. He enjoyed working in Spartak, he created a great team. At that time it was hard to compete against CSKA, but we won that competition. Not just in points, but in the face-to-face match that we won convincingly.

Why did he do it? I guess he loved soccer a little more than hockey. There was also a theory that Tarasov went to the Minister of Defense Grechko and asked Bobrov to be removed from Spartak. So Bobrov was made an offer he couldn't refuse. There is no proof of that, but rumors go around among both players and fans.

Do you still think that had Bobrov not coached the national team, you wouldn't have played this well?

This is true. It was easy for me to work with Bobrov. He returned to hockey in five years, in 1972, but his style remained the same. I knew all his demands. We always respected each other. That's why things worked out.

Is there a historical unfairness in the fact that Tarasov who was an assistant coach of the national team, is held in higher regard than Chernyshev, the main coach? How did this happen?

It was a unique tandem. Two opposites of character, complimenting each other. Tarasov was in charge of the training process, Chernyshev -- of the game. Why was Tarasov more famous? Journalists spoke to him more often, he was often interviewed. He was a charismatic man, and his replies were often unusual, unorthodox. Which is what press loves. That's why reporters spoke to him more and wrote more about him.

Everybody knew the relationship between the two of them was complex, but they were both smart enough not to bring it out in the open. They split their roles and played them well. But once it broke out. We were getting one penalty after another, and the PK unit was gassed. So Tarasov walked up to the colleague: "My Romik (Igor Romishevsky) is ready." Chernyshev exploded: "You and your Romik can go **** yourselves! Davydov, you're out!" The boys still talk about this episode.

Were you shocked when Chernyshev and Tarasov, after the Olympic gold in Sapporo, left the team and not waited for the Super Series against Canada?

Not just me, everybody was shocked. After a third straight Olympic victory, after nine straight WC golds, to leave just like that... I suspect they themselves were surprised their resignation letter was accepted so easily. Now nobody will know for sure. That secret is gone with these two great men.

Do you know why Tarasov quit coaching so unthinkably early, at 55?


Every metal has its fatigue point. Remember, he started coaching early, at 26 and spent so many years on the highest level. Maybe he was just tired. Although in this age, 55 is coach's prime. But he was done.

If you could change one thing in your career, what would you do?


Change the decision of our hockey authorities in 1976 not to bring seven leading players, including the lines of Petrov and Shadrin, to the first Canada Cup. They sent an "experimental lineup," and I think it was a mistake. They said that there is a hard season ahead and star players need to rest. Stupid.

Your final world championship in Moscow in 1979 you won under Victor Tikhonov. Even though Tikhonov, having taken the team in 1977, scratched you. Were you surprised he retrieved you for the home worlds?


I did not expect it. After he became the head coach, he went for the youth, which was what he was brought to do. That season I was not invited to the national team, and I mentally bid it farewell. Then suddenly I got a call at 32 years of age, and it was a big surprise. That entire season I was not called up once, not even for the Izvestia Cup, then suddenly, right before the WC...

I finished my career at 33, and that was already unusual at that time. A 30 y.o. player was considered "old." It was the right thing to do. Nowdays, Jagr plays at 44, Selanne became the MVP of the Olympics at 43, and Fetisov and Larionov played well beyond 40... In our system it was impossible. Even now it's not that common, so more power to them! It's admirable how these great players could preserve themselves and bring happiness to fans at that age!


Last edited by Sentinel: 01-04-2017 at 11:38 AM.
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01-02-2017, 08:50 PM
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Sutter pours bourbon
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Excellent, thanks.

What was his most fantastic drill?

"Hit a Canadian." You had to ram the boards with your shoulder, not just in full speed, but in full acceleration. He would carefully watch so nobody would hit the brakes. That was his way of forming fearlessness in combat. I never saw such exotics anywhere else.

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01-03-2017, 05:21 AM
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Theokritos
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Very interesting, thanks for providing this!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sentinel View Post
In the 1966-67 season, on the verge of my 20th birthday, I came to Canada with the second national team, I was hit in the back and sent flying into the boards, feet first. Broke the skate, but there was a long series ahead of us. I went to our delegation chief, and his reply was: "I got no money for you. Use your own money." We were issued $100 for the duration of the 20 day trip (meals were provided by the hosts). I really wanted to play, so I went to the store and bought a pair. It cost $77; I remember like it was yesterday. The second national used domestic skates, so everybody was curious about them, but not many people wanted to spend their own money. So $23 remained for chewing gum and stuff. I used them for two years.
Talk about the Soviets being cash-strapped.

By the way, the schedule of that tour can be found here:

Quote:
Dec 16 4-5 Western International Hockey League All Stars @ Trail
Dec 18 3-7 Canada @ Vancouver
Dec 19 2-5 Canada @ Victoria
Dec 21 5-2 Edmonton Nuggets & University of Alberta
Dec 23 11-2 Regina Caps
Dec 25 1-6 Canada @ Winnipeg
Dec 26 8-1 Lakehead Senior All Stars @ Fort William
Dec 28 10-2 Ottawa St Lawrence Senior League All Stars @ Hull
Dec 29 5-3 Sherbrooke Castors

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01-03-2017, 03:03 PM
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This interview makes me think Bobrov doesn't get enough respect on this board.

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01-03-2017, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sentinel View Post
This interview makes me think Bobrov doesn't get enough respect on this board.
Not enough respect as a player, too much respect as a coach imo.

Yakushev's opinion isn't objective here.

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01-03-2017, 06:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sentinel View Post
This interview makes me think Bobrov doesn't get enough respect on this board.
It makes me think that Bobby Hull doesn't get enough respect on this board.

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01-04-2017, 11:06 AM
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Johnny Engine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaxV View Post
Not enough respect as a player, too much respect as a coach imo.

Yakushev's opinion isn't objective here.
How so? Unless I'm missing something, I rarely read anything positive about his coaching - it's generally framed as one of the Soviets' big handicaps in the Summit Series, along with missing Firsov, and having Kharlamov's ankle busted by Clarke.

I personally find it interesting that he has a big supporter in Yakushev.

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01-04-2017, 11:36 AM
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Sentinel
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Bobrov was also thoroughly derided in the movie "Legend #17": described as "way in over his head" and then portrayed as a complete idiot before and during Game 1 of the SS.

At the "Best of the non-NHL" project, he was also ranked at #22. While in Russia he is usually ranked in the top 3.

I'd say this defines "underrated."

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01-04-2017, 12:02 PM
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Theokritos
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sentinel View Post
Bobrov was also thoroughly derided in the movie "Legend #17": described as "way in over his head" and then portrayed as a complete idiot before and during Game 1 of the SS.

At the "Best of the non-NHL" project, he was also ranked at #22. While in Russia he is usually ranked in the top 3.

I'd say this defines "underrated."
As a player? It's notoriously difficult and controversial to determine where old-time legends like Bobrov deserve to rank. In the Czech Republic they usually rank Vladimír Zábrodský in the top 3. But it's hard to deny guys like those were big fish in a rather small pond (Europe) even in their time when you look at world hockey and the ocean that North America was even back then. That's the issue.

As a coach? Probably. I'm not too surprised by Yakushev's appreciation. When Bobrov took over Spartak Moscow midway through the 1963-1964 season, they were on pace for a 5th or 6th place finish in the Soviet league. Under Bobrov, they turned into the second best team in a minimum of time and almost caught up to Dinamo Moscow (#2) at the end of the season. Then they finished 2nd in 1964-1965. Then they finished second again in 1965-1966. Then they upset CSKA Moscow and won the championship in 1966-1967. Not exactly a shabby record.

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01-04-2017, 06:18 PM
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His methods in the SS were questionable at best.

Constantly shuffling of lines and constant failed experiments with personnel isn't exactly great coaching.

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