Russia’s New Coach Valeriy Bragin Targets Olympic Gold

Team Russia has a new coach now – Valeriy Bragin, 64. He is the coach who led the Russian youth national teams to a lot of international success, including gold medals in 2004 with Russia U18 and 2011 with Russia U20. Now, Bragin will be working towards winning the Olympic gold in Beijing 2022 Olympics.

Valeri Bragin CSKA Moscow
Valeri Bragin as CSKA-Moscow coach (Александр Головко / CC BY-SA https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Even after losing the U20 Final against team Canada 3:4 in January 2020, Bragin promised that Russia would continue playing “from the position of force.” He stressed that Team Russia would be doing so on all levels of hockey – from youth championships up to the top-level international competitions, including the Olympics.

Coach with a History of Success

Although Bragin and his team lost in Final this year, his coaching career with Team Russia U20 and U18 has been a great success and is much appreciated in Russia. This success led Bragin to two new roles. Besides the appointment as the head coach of Team Russia, Bragin will coach SKA St. Petersburg hockey club.

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Canada U20 defeat Russia U20 in Youth World Championship Finals on Jan. 5, 2020.

There is some rationale and some tradition behind this decision of the Russian ice hockey federation. In Soviet times, the Russian national team kept relying on the club where most of the players come from. Nowadays it is SKA St. Petersburg.

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Such an approach ensures that the main striking lines are well-greased and perfectly functioning because of tons of mutual experience gained at the club level. Thus, the national team at all times has a striking core. The core can be further reinforced by the stars from the NHL and other KHL teams.

Bragin started his coaching career in Rodovre Mighty Bulls in Denmark. He both starred as a player for the team and coached it during 1989-1994.

Besides the coaching success, Bragin has also had his bitter experiences as a coach on the club level. Spartak Moscow fired him in 2008 and CSKA in 2013. Atlant Mytyshchi refused to re-sign him for the season of 2011. All the teams wished Bragin brought them more points in the table.

That’s when the hockey decision-makers in Russia agreed to have Bragin concentrate on working with the youth players, where he had always been productive. Thus, he stuck to his duties with the U20s for the last six years.

Team Russia Valery Bragin
Team Russia’s head coach Valery Bragin and players Pavel Shen, Artyom Galimov, and Kirill Slepets (L-R sitting) on the bench during the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Andrew ChanTASS via Getty Images)

According to Russian tradition, mature men and women are referred to by two names – the given name and the patronymic name. Valeriy Nikolayevich Bragin is jokingly called Valeriy Comeback-ovich Bragin for his ability to come back strong after hits of life. Those were the young players exposed to English, who invented the nickname about four years ago.

Radel Fazleev was first to mention this nickname publicly back in 2016 and it sticks to this day with Bragin. In the same interview, Fazleev, a former U20 player for Team Russia, revealed Bragin’s approach to coaching: “he invites guys with strong fighting will, and who are psychologically stable. This is in addition to robust playing skills.”

Outstanding Player Career

During his player career, Bragin succeeded in Soviet clubs Spartak Moscow and Khimik Voskresensk. Together with Spartak Bragin, they became the USSR ice hockey champion in 1976. He also won two silver and four bronze medals of the Soviet championships with Spartak and Khimik.

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Bragin enjoyed a fair amount of international success but never played for the USSR national team in World Championships or Olympics. Still, he went to two U20 World Championships and one U19 European Championship as a player during 1974-1976.

He also played for the Soviet all-star team in the Super Series of 1977-78. In 1990 Bragin won Danish gold with Rodovre.

In an interview with Russian Match-TV, Artemy Panarin said that Bragin can be both emotional and calm: “He would groan at us at times, but we felt it was fatherly groaning.”

Panarin and his teammates will play under Bragin’s supervision as mature players now. As Bragin knows the full palette of the Russian hockey talent, he will not experience any problems with picking the right players. Ensuring that his men paly tough and strategic game will be the Russian coach’s major challenge.