New head coach Ilya Vorobyov and his predecessor Oleg Znarok after the won bronze medal game at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Photo: Andre RInguette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Vorobyov replaces Znarok with three weeks to go
Surprise news from Moscow: The Ice Hockey Federation of Russia has appointed Ilya Vorobyov as new head coach of the men’s national team instead of Oleg Znarok.
Vorobyov was named “interim head coach” on Thursday and will be assisted by Alexei Zhamnov, Igor Nikitin, Rashit Davydov and Anvar Gatiyatulin. Previous head coach Oleg Znarok and assistant coach Harijs Vitolins were thanked for their previous work and Znarok was offered the position of the men’s national team coach consultant.
Znarok took over four years ago and led the Olympic Athletes from Russia to gold recently while winning four medals in four IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships: gold in 2014, silver in 2015 and bronze in the last two years. Therefore the sudden change came as a surprise to the Russian hockey community.
Reasons were not announced and Znarok wished not to comment on the situation in the media but Vladislav Tretiak, who was re-elected as President of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia for another four-year term today, told championat.com: “We are preparing for Denmark. Znarok has done a lot for us, became Olympic Champion, World Champion. Now he’s psychologically tired. He had heavy workload both at [his club team] SKA and at the national team. For this tournament Vorobyov will be temporary the head coach and Znarok will be consultant. Vitolins will also not go to the World Championship.”
For the new coach himself the new position came as a surprise. “For me the appointment came unexpected. Yesterday I yet didn’t know anything. Now we will work,” Vorobyov told Sport-Express.
Vorobyov has been one of the assistant coaches since the 2016 Worlds. The same year the 43-year-old celebrated his biggest success as a head coach by winning the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk where he was working until being replaced last November. He was born in 1975 in Riga where his father Pyotr Vorobyov was playing and coaching for 20 years. Back in Russia, Ilya Vorobyov went through the Dynamo Moscow system and won 1995 World Junior silver with the U20 national team but spent most of his career in the German DEL until retiring in 2009. In 2011 he started as coach in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl organization before moving to Magnitogorsk in in 2012.
Russia will play its World Championship group in Copenhagen where it will face off against Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus, Slovakia, France and Austria.