Former New York Rangers forward Sergei Nemchinov has been named head coach of the legendary Russian club CSKA Moscow. Nemchinov will replace Vyacheslav Bykov, who resigned from the post last month, citing a desire to concentrate on his duties as head coach of the Russian national team as the 2010 Vancouver Olympics approach. Nemchinov, who spent three seasons with CSKA in the early eighties, will also assume the role of general manager of the club, and will be assisted behind the bench by Vyacheslav Butsaev and Vladimir Popov, a former CSKA player who also assisted Nemchinov with the Russian junior team.
Nemchinov, or “Sarge” as he came to be known during his six seasons and nearly 500 regular season and playoff games in New York, was hired at the behest of shareholders of CSKA’s main sponsor, Norilsky Nickel. “A desire to see me in CSKA was expressed by the main shareholder of the club — the company Norilsky Nickel,” Nemchinov explained in an interview with Vladimir Yurin of Sport Express. “It’s clear that one doesn’t deliberate over such offers for long, and so I accepted it practically at once.”
The new job will bring Nemchinov’s two year tenure as head coach of the Russian junior team — a role in which he had the opportunity to coach Rangers prospects Artem Anisimov, Alexei Cherepanov, and most recently, Evgeny Grachev — to an end. “Work with the junior national team takes up a lot of time, especially in November and December,” Nemchinov conceded. “So, although I have an offer to sign a contract for another year, I will decline it.”
The position with the junior squad was Nemchinov’s first as a head coach, and he was often criticized for his lack of experience and line-up decisions. But the two-time Stanley Cup champion defended his record with the team. “I don’t consider my work with the junior team unsuccessful,” he told Yurin. “In my opinion, I have led it to two good years. Yes, it was a difficult beginning — the defeat in the Super Series with Canada — but we withstood it. And at the World Championship we played quite adequately.” The Russians won bronze at the annual U-20 tournament in each of the two years they were coached by Nemchinov, after earning silver in three straight years prior.
The head coaching opportunity with the KHL club also forced the 45-year old Nemchinov to turn down a position as Sports Director with the Molodezhnaya Hockey League (MHL), the new Russian junior league that will begin play this fall. His connections to North America and frequent trips to Canada with the junior team made him uniquely qualified for the position, and he will continue to share his advice with the leadership of the new league. “During my trips to Canada with the junior team I repeatedly met managers and presidents of the junior leagues, and closely studied their work. I think that my considerable accumulated experience is quite useful to the MHL. I am constantly in contact with the executive director of the youth league, Dmitry Yefimov, and business director Alexei Antonov, and exchange suggestions with them,” Nemchinov shared.
Hours after announcing Nemchinov’s hiring, CSKA named former captain and long-time NHL defenseman Vyacheslav Fetisov to the position of President. Fetisov, who won’t draw a salary, replaces legendary Soviet coach Victor Tikhonov, who was demoted and will serve as Vice President of the army club. Ostensibly, Fetisov was brought for his name and connections, with the expectation that he will be able to attract new sponsors for the team, which lost one of its two major financiers last season and is said to be struggling financially.
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