“The biggest mistake of my career. Tretiak always played better after he gave up a goal. The decision was a result of getting caught up in emotions. After Tretiak gave up the rebound and let in the soft goal by (Mark) Johnson, my blood was boiling. It was my worst mistake, my biggest regret.”
Tikhonov’s temper showed following the loss when he went to Tretiak, Vladimir Petrov, team captain Boris Mikhailov and superstar forward Valery Kharmalov pointing his finger in their faces and telling them in Russian: “This is your loss! This is your loss.” Defenceman Valery Vasilliev grabbed Tikhonov by the neck proclaiming: “I will kill you right now,” before Russian officials separated them.
Tikhonov and the Soviets did recover the following year by winning the 1981 Canada Cup. The final, an 8-1 drubbing of Team Canada at the fabled Forum in Montreal, was Soviet hockey at its best. Tretiak was simply brilliant between the pipes, while Krutov scored an incredible goal in which he undressed Guy Lafleur and easily beat Canadian goalie Mike Liut.
Three successive Olympic gold medals cemented Tikhonov’s legacy in hockey as one of the greatest coaches ever.
The Lasting Impact of Viktor Tikhonov
Tikhonov was known to hold intense training sessions that would include dry land training. These offseason workouts are now being used by many of today’s NHL players, where fitness is a premium.
An autocrat at the best of times, Tikhonov wasn’t afraid to cut players from the national team if he thought they would defect from the communist nation. Stars such as Pavel Bure and Vladimir Konstantinov were cut by Tikhonov prior to the 1991 Canada Cup because he feared they would leave the Soviet Union to join the NHL teams that drafted them.
Despite his dictating ways, Tikhonov was recognised by the IIHF as they inducted him into the their Hall of Fame in 1998 as a builder.
His grandson, also named Viktor Tikhonov was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. The younger Tikhonov is currently playing for Kazan Ak-Bars of the KHL.