Esso Hockey since 1936Legends Of Hockey
Esso Hockey since 1936
Tarasov, Anatoli

Tarasov, Anatoli

In 1958, Tarasov took the reins of the USSR nationals for the first time, and his team gave up the gold at two World Championships and the 1960 Olympics. The veterans of the Central Red Army temporarily ousted him and once again Arkady Chernyshev came to the helm of the national squad. He didn't win either. But before the 1963 World Championship, Chernyshev and Tarasov appeared as a duo to lead the national squad. They went on to sweep every championship for the next 10 years, topping that winning streak off with the 1972 Olympic title.

Tarasov was very ambitious, perhaps even too ambitious for a model Soviet citizen. Hockey, previously a curiosity from overseas, offered him the chance to express himself 100%. With no precedent to follow for the development of the game in the Soviet Union, hockey in Tarasov's hands became the clay out of which he molded whatever came to mind. He rigorously copied the methods of the best coaches in soccer and other sports and, some would say, even drew upon some of the lesser qualities of politicians. Tarasov could act and he could charm people - whoever and whenever necessary. He also knew how to leave a person speechless, and how to compel a person to think profoundly.

He squeezed every ounce of energy and performance out of his players. Even the slightest hint of self-importance was dealt with immediately. According to Tarasov, egoism on the ice was the gravest of all sins. In the end, Tarasov must be given credit for his work in creating a phenomenon in Soviet hockey unparalleled elsewhere - superstar forward lines. The members of those lines interacted with one another apparently without the slightest effort, as if they had no need to see each other and could function purely on instinct.

By the end of the 1960s, many of the Soviet leaders had had their fill of Tarasov, complaining that he'd built a state within a state and crowned himself king in an autocratic USSR. To make matters worse, he led his Central Red Army team off the ice in 1969 during a decisive game against Spartak - and in the presence of leading statesmen. For 40 minutes, they tried to talk Tarasov into sending his players back out on the ice, but he objected to the referee's disallowing a goal scored by his team. He did lead the team back onto the ice but lost the game, and Tarasov was subsequently stripped of his Merited Coach title. He handed the reins of the Central Red Army over to second coach Boris Kulagin, who quickly established himself as the main coach and began rejuvenating the lineup.

In subsequent games, however, Tarasov began sitting closer and closer to the Army bench. And in the final match to determine the Soviet entry at the European Championship, with the Central Army losing 5-3 to Spartak and the whole country watching at home, Tarasov could no longer contain himself. He went over to the bench and in a fit of temper began running the show. The Central Red Army suddenly came back to life and whipped Spartak 8-5. To add insult to injury, Tarasov gave Kulagin a public tongue-lashing for "bringing such a glorious team to ruin by senselessly reshuffling the lineup."

Tarasov and Chernyshev left the national team in the winter of 1972, half a year before the Summit Series. Tarasov worked with the Central Army club for another two years, but after losing the championship in 1974, he stepped aside to make way for Konstantin Loktev. He ended his career behind the bench before exhausting a coach's best years. After that, he conducted hockey competitions for young amateurs throughout the country. He did some teaching and became a hockey observer for the leading newspapers.

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