“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 in the middle of the league.’
“I checked the standings. He’s second. The only team that’s ahead of him in his division is (SKA) St Petersburg. He’s 15-10-1.”
Admitting that he was unsure about what to expect when accepting the task of coaching Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, Larionov has come to embrace the wonderment of the opportunity.
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“It’s a great experience, I can tell you that,” Larionov said. “To me, maybe it’s not the same joy (as being a player) but it is good to give your experience to the young players.”
To his great delight, one of the fringe benefits of locating in Nizhny Novgorod is that Larionov is constantly feeling reminiscent of a place were he used to live and won the Stanley Cup on three occasions. Nizhny Novgorod is the KHL version of Hockeytown.
“It’s kind of a town like Detroit, with the auto industry in that city,” Larionov explained. “To me it’s kind of like a reflection of Detroit.
“When you go into the grocery store, people are wishing you good luck. This only happened in Detroit when I played here. It that city, it’s all about the team, about the boys, about success.”
Larionov is a man who held a passionate distate for the neutral-zone trap, resulting in the creation of what’s become 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’s choosing to also rage against the KHL machine.
“I’m kind of teaching the 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’ve got every game sold out.”
Bowman knows enough about the economics of the KHL to recognize the uphill battle in front of his old 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.”
That fact of life is immateral to Larionov’s way of thinking. His only message to his team is that they should go for the gusto.
“We set up the goal to go for the championship,” Larionov said. “We set up the goal, despite that I have no money, but I have the big hearts and a big brain for the players.
“There’s no other way you can tell the players. You can’t say. ‘this is a rebuilding year, we’re gonna rebuild.’ There’s no time to build. You just gotta go right away and surprise everybody.”