And he began to help on the bench even under Belousov.
These and further lines may seem familiar to you - for the first time this text was published two years ago, when CSKA simply smeared Avangard in the final, and Igor Nikitin did not leave Bob Hartley a chance. But the story about Nikitin's past is also relevant in 2021 - even with the title of champion, nothing has changed in the life and career of one of the best KHL coaches. And Avangard remains an insanely important club in its history, without which CSKA would not have been so important.
“Of course, Omsk is not a foreign city for me,” the head coach of CSKA told reporters at an open lesson before the final series of the 2019 Gagarin Cup and moved on to assessing the opponent's game.
Igor Nikitin every year becomes a little more sociable (of course) and even sometimes smiles at press conferences, but you shouldn't expect emotions from him during the season anyway. In response to reporters, he clearly downplayed the importance of Omsk in his life. In fact, Avangard is a key club in Nikitin's career: both as a player and as a coach.
In Omsk, Nikitin appeared as an already formed hockey player - at the age of 24. The pupil of the Ust-Kamenogorsk Torpedo for the 1996/97 season changed four teams: Lada, Lada -2, Neftyanik and Neftekhimik, and in the offseason he moved to Avangard, which was then considered significantly stronger than Nizhnekamsk , but weaker than Togliatti.
For the club, the defender spent nine seasons (of the notable players of that Omsk era, only Dyakiv, Elakov, Vyukhin and Ryabykin had more), got a place in the squad under six different coaches, but was never considered the star of Avangard. Largely because of his playing functions - he was responsible for the game at his goal, and more often threw himself under the puck than he threw himself: in 342 Omsk regular season matches he has only 39 (8 + 31) points. And Nikitin himself never sought attention and rarely gave interviews.
But the fans of "Avangard" loved Igor - for his dedication and willingness to join the battle. Sometimes it was necessary - like in the match against Sheffield in the 1998 Continental Cup.
Following the results of the group stage of the tournament, he was recognized as the best defender. But in that fight, his nose was broken.
Nikitin had a great chance to become a real star of the club in one second and write his name in history. In the gold match against Magnitogorsk, it was he who scored the only goal from the field.
In the 7th minute of the third period, with the score 0: 0, Igor fired powerfully from the blue line, Marakl fell - and the puck flew into the goal. The referee Valery Bokarev, after a long viewing, decided that there was a violation of the rules by Sushinsky - and canceled the goal, at the same time removing the leader of Avangard.
This decision is still called controversial. As a result, Bednarzh's bullet and Sokolov's save became gold for the "hawks". Although the Avangard players themselves did not think so - a gilded puck hung in a frame in Nikitin's Omsk country house.
“The guys, apparently, thought that this particular goal was the golden one. They made such a washer, gave it to me and told me to hang it. I couldn't refuse. I never regret that moment when the goal was not counted. Everything that is done is for the best. And so it happened in the end - we became champions. And my goal, probably, spurred the guys up somehow at the decisive moments of the final. No wonder there is a sign: once the puck has found its way into the goal, it will certainly be there again, "Nikitin said in an interview with Football-Hockey.
Omsk also influenced his decision to become a coach. Nikitin missed most of the 2005/06 season at Avangard due to a back injury, but remained with the team. Then, bored without adrenaline, he asked the head coach Valery Belousov to go to the bench during the matches, to which he heard in response: “It’s even necessary. Let’s work with the defenders, help the guys ”. Then Nikitin realized that he was interested in it, he entered the high school of coaches.
In the next offseason Igor moved to Siberia, and by the summer of 2008 he had completed his hockey career - and returned to Omsk to help Sergei Gersonsky, whom he crossed paths with in Ustinka, to work with the Avangard defenders.
Already on September 16, 35-year-old Nikitin, in fact, became the main one: Gersonsky never found a common language with the stars, and that summer Jagr moved to Omsk, who, in fact, fired the coach. While they were looking for a replacement (the main candidate back then they called Bob Hartley) Nikitin won seven matches in a row with Avangard. And then Wayne Fleming arrived - Nikitin returned to assistants.
That season was insanely difficult for everyone at the club: the death of Cherepanov, poor results, lack of clear play. During the break at home against Vityaz, Fleming was suspended, and Nikitin took the team out for the third period. Avangard bounced back from 0: 1 and won in overtime. But in the next match, Fleming again coached the team.
Igor Nikitin then and now calmly reacts to the situation: “I was a goldfinch then, if I was capricious, it would be funny. I am grateful to the leaders for this opportunity. "
Fleming was finally dismissed at the end of January, and Nikitin again received the prefix acting. - and already stayed with her until the end of the season, which turned out to be crazy: Avangard miraculously, thanks to Magnitka, got into the playoffs from 16th place, knocked out the regular season champion Salavat Yulaev and lost in the second round Ak Barsu, whichtied the score 15 seconds before the end of the decisive match in the series... It is difficult to assess that season, but it was clear that the team had a promising young coach ready to learn. Although he has not yet completely rebuilt from the role of a player - for example, together with the hockey players, he ran out onto the ice after defeating Ufa in a common pile of mala.
In the first seasons Nikitin made no secret of the fact that Avangard had a player's advice, with whom he constantly consulted, so no one was surprised when, during matches, Jagr took a tablet and drew a power play scheme to his partners. But at the same time it was clear that the players were fighting for the young coach and did not want to substitute him.
This was the case in the first season of the KHL, but it did not work out in the second - Nikitin took the club to the playoffs from 5th place in the East, and on the eve of the first game he was fired, replacing him with Raimo Summanen. But even here Nikitin did not freak out: he remained the senior at the Finn's headquarters, and a year later replaced him before the decisive match in the series with Magnitogorsk. Nikitin was also at the headquarters of the Slovak coach of Chad - and for some reason together with him in December 2012 he was dismissed, returning Summanen. It was strange, because by that time Nikitin had already proven himself great: he was a member of the coaching staff of the Russian national team - Bilyaletdinov trusted him, just as Znarok will later trust, with whom Nikitin will win the Olympics.
Almost every time since 2013, as soon as Avangard had problems with coaches (that is, regularly before Hartley), the club's management went to Nikitin and asked him to return. But he refused, although he worked only as an assistant to Kvartalnov - first at Siberia, and then at CSKA.
In the summer of 2017, he became the chief in the headquarters of the army - and for the third playoff in a row (the fourth was prevented by a pandemic) brings the team to the final of the Gagarin Cup. In 2019, he took the title just in a series with Avangard - very personal for Nikitin: he was opposed by former partners in Avangard - Sushinsky (club president), Khacei (director of hockey operations), Ryabykin (assistant coach) , Kuryanov (player development coach), Bondarev (defender) and Pivtsakin, whom Nikitin once taught to play defense.
Nowadays, there is much less historical adherence to the CSKA coach - from the close acquaintances of people on the other side of the bench, only Dmitry Ryabykin. But Avangard is clearly in the mood for revenge: the humiliating 0-4 in the 2019 final were personally seen by 7 players of the current squad (and let 2 of them be on the list of injured), but the most important thing is that almost the entire headquarters remembers that defeat. with Hartley - and the Canadian is used to taking the title in all club tournaments where he coached.
Nikitin is only 48 years old, he is still one of the youngest coaches in the KHL. And for some reason there is no doubt that someday, after the departure of Hartley, he will definitely be called back to train Avangard.
You might not know this about Igor Nikitin:
• In "Vanguard" they called him Tsar.
• He played for the national team of Kazakhstan at the Olympics in Nagano (the same one where Bure put the Finns five goals) - and even scored a goal there. The same Finns.
• Viktor Tikhonov gave Nikitin his notes.
“Beautiful hockey, as a rule, boils down to one thing - beautiful goals. But this again depends on the performers. I remember when I first met Viktor Vasilyevich, he gave me his notes. And I was quite young - I sit with their eyes devouring. He looks at it and says: “Young man, the most important thing is the performers,” the coach said on the air of Sport FM.
The great 2004 final: Avangard vs. Magnitka (and the referees), Bardin vs. Velichkin and shootouts in the decisive match
The first KHL playoffs - 12 years old: crazy Avangard with Jagr, a fight between Svitov and Emelin, SKA's departure from Spartak and Morozov's golden goal
How young Bure started at CSKA: scored Irbe with the first touch, caught the end of the army superclub
In the 90s, CSKA split into two teams - Tikhonov and the Ministry of Defense. United only after six years
Photo: ; / Vladimir Fedorenko, Alexey Malgavko, Alexey Filippov