Russian forward Viktor Tikhonov hopes to carry grandfather's legacy into Olympics

Team Russia forward Viktor Tikhonov (right), grandson of the legendary Soviet coach with the same...

Team Russia forward Viktor Tikhonov (right), grandson of the legendary Soviet coach with the same name, will suit up for the Sochi Olympmics. (Reuters)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:35 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - He carries the name and now he hopes to carry the legacy.

Viktor Tikhonov has the same name as his legendary grandfather, who won three Olympic hockey gold medals as the famously taciturn and tyrannical coach of the Soviet Union’s Big Red Machine for about 20 years starting in the mid-1970s.

The young Tikhonov, a forward on the Russian squad, practised with some of his teammates here while waiting for the arrival of the rest of the team from North America for the start of the men’s Olympic tournament Wednesday.

Everybody has heard the stories about his grandfather and his reputation. So what’s he really like?

“He’s just a normal grandfather. Always been really kind, always been really helpful,” said the 25-year-old. “Obviously, I’ve heard the stories that he’s been a disciplinarian, but he never really got it on me. That was mostly my dad’s job.”

Tikhonov’s dad, Vasili, had a stint as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks, so he spent some time growing up in northern California and speaks impeccable English (Vasili died this past summer when he fell from an apartment window in Moscow).

He said he could remember prowling around his grandfather’s offices and looking at the medals and trophies his teams had won.

“In his house (in Moscow), he’s got a whole room dedicated to just medals and trophies from tournaments. He’s got a room there and a room in his office in the Red Army club. Even when I was younger, I would come up to him and ask him about one or two, you know?

“It really is unbelievable. I forget who mentioned it to me, but someone said the last time they won was in 1992 when my grandfather (was coaching). Maybe it’ll come full circle. Hopefully it will happen.”

Tikhonov was the Phoenix Coyotes’ first-round pick (28th overall) in 2008. He played just one season in the NHL (61 games) before spending a couple of years bouncing back and forth between the AHL and the NHL before making the move back to Russia with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL for the 2011-12 season. He’s played on a line with Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk this season.

He said he expects his grandfather to arrive here next week, perhaps in time for the quarterfinals.

The Russian team is under the weight of tremendous expectations as the hosts.

“The closer we get to it, we definitely can feel all of the emotions growing. Even since the opening, everyone was watching it on TV and personally I kind of got butterflies seeing that it’s finally here. Playing on our home turf is a big deal,” he said, adding he’s not feeling that pressure just yet.

“I guess when the games start, I’m going to start feeling the pressure. On the other hand, we’ve got the home crowd and it’s going to give us extra energy, extra motivation, so everything kind of balances out.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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