International Ice Hockey Federation

WW Top 25 Stories: #16

WW Top 25 Stories: #16

Former NHLer Yashin leads Russian women to bronze

Published 20.03.2015 18:14 GMT+1 | Author Andrew Podnieks
WW Top 25 Stories: #16
Russia's Nadezhda Alexandrova and Anna Shibanova celebrate the 2-0 win in the bronze-medal game against Finland at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship with their teammates. Photo: Jana Chytilova / HHOF-IIHF Images
9 April 2013. When the news came, on 7 December 2012, that Alexei Yashin was named general manager of Russia’s women’s national team, responses were mixed.

Some wondered what such a legend in the men’s game was doing with the women, given his total lack of experience and seeming interest in the women’s game. Some wondered how or what he could do to improve the team given that the goals were simple: perform well at the 2013 Women’s Worlds and prepare for a medal run in Sochi in February 2014.

“I think for the ladies it’s a great gift for the new year,” Ice Hockey Federation of Russia president Vladislav Tretiak, himself a legend, commented of the new appointment. “Alexei is a fine man who did a lot for our country. The solution will benefit both our coaching staff and give new challenges to the general manager.”

Yashin played pro hockey for 21 years. He appeared in 850 NHL games with Ottawa and the Islanders over 13 years and played the last five years of his career in the KHL. In international play, he won a gold medal at the 1992 World Juniors and another gold at the senior level a year later. He later added an Olympic silver (1998) and bronze (2002) to his resume as well as a bronze at the 2005 World Championship. His last appearance came at the 2006 Olympics where Russia finished fourth.

One thing was clear, though: once he took control of the team, he took action. Yashin replaced coach Valentin Gureyev, who had taken the team to a 6th-place finish in 2012, with Mikhail Chekhanov. The GM and new coach then changed the roster significantly, and in a country without a huge talent pool, the moves were aggressive and decisive.

Continue reading

Anna Prugova was still the main goalie, but the second and third goaltenders were replaced. Yashin convinced Yekaterina Pashkevich to come out of retirement. The 40-year-old had not played since 2006, but her leadership was what Yashin was after.

Yekaterina Smolentseva, another player who missed 2012, was back for 2013, and a troika of young players from the team’s U18 program were brought in: 21-year-old Yekaterina Solovyova; 18-year-old Anna Shibanova; and, 17-year-old Yelena Dergachyova.

The new lineup, new coach, new approach, new mentality all worked wonders. Russia won Group B with a perfect 3-0-0 record, scoring a modest eleven goals but surrendering only one. Although the 8-1 semi-finals loss to Canada was sobering, the team bounced back to stun Finland, 2-0, in the bronze-medal game.

The tournament, played in Yashin’s old NHL stomping ground of Ottawa, was a stunning success for the rookie GM. After the bronze win, under the stands and outside the dressing room, one could see Yashin surrounded by women – players young and old from his team, giggling, laughing, their bronze medals dangling proudly around their necks.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of women's hockey in the IIHF, writer Andrew Podnieks is counting down the top 25 stories in women's international hockey history. One story each day will appear until the Number 1 story is unveiled the morning of the gold-medal game of the 2015 Women's Worlds in Malmo, Sweden, on April 4.

Earlier Top 25 Stories:
#17: Cammi Granato cut before Turin
#18: Visitors win twice in North American finals
#19: IIHF makes Women’s Worlds official for 1990
#20: Rogge issues challenge to women’s hockey
#21: IIHF goes to all-women officials
#22: Shannon Miller recruits Euros for NCAA
#23: IIHF introduces junior event for women
#24: Zorn a goalie and skater both
#25: Russia-Switzerland a dandy display in 2011


Back to Overview