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Larionov Torpedos himself a little piece of Hockeytown in the KHL

Larionov Torpedos himself a little piece of Hockeytown in the KHL

When the conversation turned to Igor Larionov’s Torpedo Club in the KHL, old Detroit Red Wings Coach Scotty Bowman was having a laugh.

“Igor is a pretty humble guy,” Bowman explained. “I was talking to him and I said, ‘How’s your team doing?’ He said, “We’re halfway up the league.”

“I checked the standings. He’s second. The only team ahead of him in his division is (SKA) St Petersburg. He’s 15-10-1.”

Admitting he wasn’t sure what to expect when accepting the job of coaching Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, Larionov has come to embrace the wonder of opportunity.

“It’s a great experience, I can tell you that,” Larionov said. “For me, maybe it’s not the same joy (as being a player), but it’s good to give your experience to young players.”

Much to his delight, one of the fringe benefits of being located in Nizhny Novgorod is that Larionov feels constantly reminiscent of a place where he lived and won the Stanley Cup three times. Nizhny Novgorod is the KHL version of Hockeytown.

“It’s kind of a city like Detroit, with the auto industry in that city,” Larionov explained. “To me it’s like a reflection of Detroit.

“When you walk into the grocery store, people wish you good luck. That only happened in Detroit when I played here. It’s this city, it’s about the team, it’s about the guys, it’s about the success.”

Larionov is a man who had a passionate distaste for the neutral zone trap, which led to the creation of what is known as the dead puck era in the NHL in the 1990s. He would refer to it as “destroy hockey”.

Larionov Raging Against KHL Machine

In his new position, he is also choosing to rage against the KHL machine.

“I’m teaching players to enjoy the game,” Igor Larionov said “The KHL is kind of a defensive-minded game.

“I have a young team, with the smallest budget in the league. But we play attractive hockey, so we have every game sold out.”

Bowman knows enough about the economics of the KHL to recognize the uphill battle ahead of his former center.

“How many teams have a lot of money, about five or six?” Bowman asked. “It’s a good league, but five or six of the teams can get players and keep them. It’s not easy for the other teams.”

This fact of life is immaterial Larionov’s way of thinking. His only message to his team is that they should go for the taste.

“We set ourselves the goal of going to the championship,” Larionov said. “We have set ourselves the goal, despite this I have no money, but I have a heart and a big brain for the players.

“There is no other way to tell the players. you can’t say “This is a rebuilding year, we will rebuild.” No time to build. You just have to go right away and surprise everyone.”

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