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Boris Mikhailov: The most important thing in hockey is victory!

25 April 2014 | Interview

The famed Soviet hockey player, two-time Olympics champion, and eight-time world champion Boris Mikhailov recalled how practices went in his childhood, who young players looked up to at that time, and who he will be cheering for in the Gazprom Neft Cup Super Final.

— It’s really great that Gazprom Neft and KHL are holding such competitions, as they are very useful — both for players and for children’s coaches. Because all coaches improve their skills and knowledge in the process of competition. They learn new things from themselves and their colleagues, notice some specifics. Each team has its own leaders, even at this age. And the boys who are a little behind learn from their example, as they understand who they should look up to. And then the kids are lucky to play in such amazing ultra-modern stadiums! I really envy them!

— What was it like in your time?

— I played on my neighbourhood team. Let’s start with saying that we didn’t really have a puck, or sticks. Just imagine — I skated on an indoor rink for the first time at 17, and before that I chased the puck in a hat out in the open air. And it was −30, −35 degrees outside. You want to play — go outside. Otherwise, step aside. And now, look at everything that’s been built and offered! And the kids have a goal to aim for, that’s really important.

Two-time Olympics champion Boris Mikhailov

—In your opinion, what is special about children’s ice hockey?

— I see children’s ice hockey and any other type of sport as a good way to get kids off the street. That’s the first thing. Children are doing something that they love, and in this way we can raise a healthy nation. Not all children are going to become masters when they grow up, but they will all be healthy people. But we have to understand — in children’s hockey we are training, and at an older age, we’re result-oriented. These are two different things. And then, children are more spontaneous, they don’t fake it. And have you seen how happy they are when they get a prize?! What captivates more, they are sincere and really committed, fully dedicated. And yes, maybe a boy lacks technique sometimes, and maybe he can’t make everything well yet, but he is ready to fight and struggle on the ice to win.

— What is most important for these guys at this stage, when they are 10 or 11?

— Whatever anyone says, the most important thing in ice hockey and in any other kind of sport is winning. And you can’t just avoid that fact. Coaching work is full of unambiguous evidence of that — if your team wins, you’re a hero, but if you lose...

— Boris Petrovich, the final is ahead of us. Who will you be cheering for in the final game of the Tournament?

— For CSKA of course! Everything I earned and won was because I ended up in the famous CSKA club. And I’m proud of that. If I hadn’t worked with such great coaches like Tarasov, Loktev, Kulagin, I probably would not have reached such level. And for our generation — me myself, Valery Kharlamov, Volodya Petrov — we had good examples. There were masters like Alexandrov, Loktev, Almetov, Polupanov, Vikulov, Firsov, Mishakov — there were a lot of masters that we looked up to.

— Do today’s Gazprom Neft Cup participants have anyone to look up to?

— At any time there is someone to look up to. Today there are Radulov, Morozov, Mozyakin, Zapirov, from among younger sportsmen — Prokhorkin (if he manages not to have his head turned by the first success). It’s important that parents and coaches at children’s sports schools take the children to ice hockey matches, so that the young players can see how different teams play. We have a lot of good hockey players. I’ve only named the forwards, but there are goalkeepers, and defenders. There are people to look up to, you just have to choose the athletes with the style that suits you the most.

— In this year Tournament there are two hosting teams, and 24 teams in general. The games are covered on television, the kids are interviewed, and everything gets written up in the press. What do you think, is this too much attention?

— On the contrary, it’s great! Because when it’s not only their parents watching them, but a whole audience, and when the tournament is broadcast and fully covered in press, that makes the boys play with more energy and dedication.