Arkadi Chernyshov, the Forgotten Head Coach

Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog). Anatoli Tarasov was the most vocal figure in Soviet hockey – so vocal, in fact, that hockey historians...
  1. Theokritos
    Anatoli Tarasov was the most vocal figure in Soviet hockey – so vocal, in fact, that hockey historians tend to forget he wasn't actually the head coach of the Soviet national team during its dynasty years from 1963 to 1972. Tarasov was only the assistant or associate coach. The head coach was another, much more reserved man: Arkadi Chernyshov. However, even those who are aware of him are prone to think of Chernyshov as a mere figurehead who dealt with the Soviet authorities and let Tarasov do the actual coaching. This picture isn't accurate. In reality, the two unlike men worked in tandem and it was indeed Arkadi Ivanovich Chernyshov who was the commander-in-chief. Take the following quotes from Soviet players:

    Stanislav Petukhov:

    Yes, there were so-called moments of friction. Arkadi Ivanovich was capable of showing that he had the final word. [1]​

    Leonid Volkov:

    As for the leadership of the team during the game, it was Chernyshov who had the say. There was no dual power. [2]​

    Sport journalist Alexander Petrov adds the following story:

    At one of the World Championships, the Soviet team was losing against the Czechs. The moment a two-minute penalty was called against one of the opponents, Anatoli Vladimirovich [Tarasov] swept across the bench and immediately proposed: “Arkadi, let's form an experimental unit of five forwards!” Chernyshov looked at him and replied calmly: “Anatoli, I have a game to manage and on top of it I also have to wrestle with you, you never back down.” At which point Tarasov, as they say, pulled back. [3]​

    Crucially, training programs and game tactics were worked out by Chernyshov and Tarasov together. Tarasov would later describe their cooperation as follows:

    He will listen to your argument with suspicion and even after all his objections have been exhausted, he will prefer to measure not seven times, but much more. That's his manner, and when we started working together, I found it somewhat bizzare. But later I became grateful for it because Chernyshov's unhurriedness and his slow pace in working out fundamental decisions balanced out the poles in our tandem. (…) Let's say we finally agree on something that Chernyshov was initially against. And then my proposal ends in a failure. No, Chernyshov will not complain to anyone that he himself had initially thought differently. He won't reproach me: “See? I told you so.” He's a steady man, he's steady in everything he does. [4]​

    Initially, both coaches went out on the ice to conduct drills: Chernyshov with the defencemen and Tarasov with the forwards. Later, after he had developed severe chronic radiculopathy, Chernyshov let Tarasov handle the on-ice training and observed from the bench. [5]

    Image 1.jpg

    This division of labour is described by Boris Mayorov:

    During training, Chernyshov's place is off the ice, on the other side of the board. Tarasov's place is right on the ice. For orientation, Chernyshov first calmly and very concisely outlines the game plan and the individual tasks. Tarasov complements and concludes the address with emotional appeals like “don't bring shame upon”, “give everything”, “show your dedication”, and so on. It's well known that the two of them sometimes argue for a long time before important decisions, but in front of the players they always stand united and give each other full support. [6]​

    A vivid portrayal of the two men is given by Boris Mayorov respectively the ghostwriter of his autobiography, Yevgeni Rubin:

    Really, how different our coaches are as people! A greater difference would be hard to find, even if one tried. I just can't imagine Chernyshov talking loudly and Tarasov talking softly. I don't think I have ever seen Chernyshov lose his state of inner balance, even when his club Dinamo Moscow or the national team suffered a heavy defeat. Tarasov I've never seen remaining calm, not even when the situation didn't call for unrest. [7]​

    Their contrasting personalities also worked in tandem when dealing with the players. Tarasov instilled in them an obligation to win and to improve without rest. In training, he drove them recklessly – but when he was about to go too far, Chernyshov would step in and enforce a break. Valeri Kharlamov remembered Chernyshov like this:

    In contrast to Anatoli Vladimirovich [Tarasov], Arkadi Ivanovich is forgiving, gentle, polite and always calm – at least on the outside. He's always composed and regardful. Chernyshov skillfully soothes the players, softens the emotional and sometimes unnecessarily harsh tirades of his colleague; he is very cautious in his choice of expressions and it seems he never does anything nor speak without weighting all possible pros and cons... Arkadi Ivanovich was always mindful of the players, he lived for their concerns; it was always possible to come and pour one's heart out, even when the cause of one's trouble had nothing to do with hockey at all. He listened to us with evident interest and attention... [8]​

    Image 2.jpg

    As a tactician, Chernyshov's work with the club team Dinamo Moscow earned him the reputation of a defence-first coach, as Tarasov explained:

    Chernyshov built and builds the game on accurate and strict observance of the defensive tasks by his players. That's why Dinamo stand out through the strength of their defence. A lot of their game is characterized by the motto “If we don't give up a goal, we win!” [9]​

    However, a closer look shows that Chernyshov was tactically flexible and capable of adapting to the talent level of the players at his disposal. A conversation Tarasov once had with Chernyshov about the offensively skilled Alexander Maltsev highlights this:

    When I made claims to Chernyshov about Maltsev and began to reproach him for his dislike of the dirty work, Chernyshov rightly replied: “Well, why should we turn Maltsev into a defenceman? His most important quality is the ability to score.” [10]​

    An observation by sport journalist Anatoli Salutsky adds to the impression that Chernyshov was a pragmatic coach:

    There was one more fundamental difference between the coaching concepts of Chernyshov and Tarasov: not a tactical one, but rather a pedagogical one. Tarasov was an adherent of “Kolkhoz hockey”, equally demanding all players to sacrifice themselves. Chernyshov was a principled opponent of this approach. He once said: “I don't remember any case when Bobrov blocked shots with his body. And to me that was fine. Tarasov used to throw himself into shots to make up for some other shortcomings, and also demanded it from other players. But imagine Bobrov throwing himself into a shot... To me, Bobrov was too valuable for this. He blocks a shot, he has to leave the game – what a great loss for his team. This prompted me to not demand such actions from Bobrov. Later, I never put Alexander Maltsev on the ice when our team was shorthanded. Maltsev wasn't made for playing 4 against 5. A clever player like him must be used when the opponent is one man short. Why use generals like Bobrov and Maltsev at the front line in an infantery attack?” [11]​

    There is no doubt that Tarasov with his energetic personality, restless mind and creative training methods was crucial for the success of the Soviet national team. His influence went well beyond the confines of the ordinary assistant coach – not the least because many of the best players were supplied by his club CSKA Moscow and had gone through his school. Still, at the national team level his inventiveness and impulsiveness were kept in check by Arkadi Chernyshov who was more than a mere figurehead: he worked closely with Tarasov, balanced out his extremes, had the final say on game tactics and was, indeed, capable of demonstrating his superior authority and overruling his younger colleague.

    [1] Alexander Petrov: Tayny sovetskogo khokkey (2010)
    [2] Alexander Gorbunov: Anatoliy Tarasov (2015)
    [3] Petrov
    [4] Gorbunov
    [5] ibid.
    [6] Boris Mayorov: Ya smotryu khokkey (1970)
    [7] ibid.
    [8] Valeri Kharlamov: Khokkey – moya stikhiya (1977)
    [9] Anatoli Tarasov: Put k sebe (1974)
    [10] ibid.
    [11] Quoted after Fyodor Razzakov: Anatoliy Tarasov. Bitva zhelenykh trenerov (2014)

    Posted on Behind the Boards (SIHR Blog)

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