OTTAWA, Ont. – Alexei Yashin retired from professional hockey last year and jumped into the deep end, as general manager of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation women’s division. He is here travelling with then team at this year’s world championship. I caught up with him Saturday, March 30 at Russia’s exhibition game against Switzerland. Here’s what he had to say about getting back into the game, with Russia’s national women’s team.
Q: Mr. Yashin, welcome back to Ottawa. How does it feel to be back here?
A: “I just retired at the end of last season and took the job as the general manager. We are to establish a program and get better. Hopefully I can help. There are a lot of great memories here; I played in Ottawa for eight years.”
Q: May I call you Alexei?
Q: “Alexei, here is a tough question; what are your expectations for this team and this tournament?”
A: “Hoping for the best. We know the Canadian and American teams are very strong. We are hoping for a bronze medal, but more to improve on our performances. Our goal is to become better for the Olympic Games.”
Q: How many players do you expect to return to this team for Sochi?
A: “Very difficult to say; the best players will play. Age doesn’t really matter, whether they are 18 years old or 36 years old, we will select the best players.”
Q: How many women are playing hockey, both at the recreational and competitive levels in Russia?
A: “Can’t really tell you the number, but I can tell you there are currently nine professional teams in the Russian league, with two more being added for next season. One of our teams won the Euro Cup (European Women’s Champions Cup.”
Q: Do you see women’s hockey becoming more accepted in Russia?
A:” I hope so I see some potential; biggest thing is after I retired, I wanted to bring my experience and knowledge to make the program better. I skate with them, I practice with them, I work with the goalies taking penalty shots.”
Q: Do you know that many Russian women are playing hockey in North America?
A: “I know that three girls are over here now. Some of them want to come over to North America to go to college here, get an education and play hockey. There is a choice for them; they can stay in Russia and play professional hockey, or come to North America and get an education and play college hockey.”
Q: When the women who play hockey in North America return to Russia, do they bring back new coaching techniques and general experience?
A: “Of course. When you play at the best level, it always helps to make you a better player.”