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Bykov named Russia coach

Bykov named Russia coach
By Reuters

12/08/2006 at 15:31Updated

Former world and Olympic champion Vyacheslav Bykov was named head coach of Russia's ice hockey team on Friday.

The 46-year-old succeeds Vladimir Krikunov, who resigned in May following Russia's disappointing showing at the world championship in Riga.

Bykov has been entrusted with leading his country at next year's world championship in Moscow, where they will be hoping to break an long title drought.

The Russians, who have won a record 23 world and eight Olympic gold medals, have not captured a major title since the 1993 world championships.

"There will be lots of pressure on the team to win the gold on home ice," said Bykov, who won five world and two Olympic titles for the mighty Soviet Union team in the 1980s and 90s.

"But that doesn't worry me. I'm used to facing pressure situations as a player and later as coach."

Some experts have proposed hiring a foreign coach, but Russian hockey chief Vladislav Tretyak ruled it out. Bykov got the job only after Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, who led AK Bars Kazan to the Russian league title last season, turned down the offer to coach the national team.

Bykov had a stellar playing career, winning 10 Soviet league titles with CSKA Moscow before leaving the country to play in Switzerland.

The former forward returned to Russia two years ago to coach his old club CSKA Moscow. He will combine coaching duties at club and national level.

Russia's Sports Minister Vyacheslav Fetisov backed Bykov's appointment.

"I think he is the right choice to lead our team," said the former defenseman, who played alongside Bykov for many years for CSKA and Russia.

Also on Friday, it was announced that fellow Superleague side Spartak Moscow went out of business due to mounting debts.

The once-dominant club, who won four Soviet titles in the 1960s and 70s, have had huge financial problems in recent years.