|Viktor Tikhonov is honored to share his name with his Russian coaching-legend grandfather, but the younger Tikonov is determined to go his own way and make a name for himself with the Phoenix Coyotes.
, selected No. 28 by the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2008 Entry Draft, has a name familiar to hockey fans. Tikhonov is the grandson of the Russian coaching legend with the same name, who won three Olympic gold medals from 1984-92.
The younger Tikhonov was born in Riga, Latvia, but started skating when he lived in Finland where his father, Vasily, was coaching in the early 1990s.
When Tikhonov got his first pair of skates at 3, he would wear them as often as he could, including when he slept, and his mother would warn him not to cut his bed sheets.
Vasily eventually got an assistant coaching job with the San Jose Sharks in 1993, which brought the family California, and Viktor would play for his first team, the Santa Clara Blackhawks.
While Vasily was coaching for the Sharks, Viktor would strap on his skates when the Sharks’ rink was free and practice for as long as he wanted.
"He would skate five or six hours a day at San Jose Arena after our practices," Vasily told The Toronto Globe and Mail. "I saw the willingness to work, the desire."
Tikhonov could have played for his grandfather’s team in Russia, CSKA, but he wanted to take a different path.
"The decision I made not to play for him was because I wanted to go my own way," Tikhonov said. "I didn't want people to think that I was on the team because of my grandfather, so I went another way and made my own way up."
While Tikhonov wanted to carve his own niche, he respects his grandfather and admires how much the fans in Russia appreciate him.
"When my grandfather’s team was playing at home, at the end of every game, the home fans would chant his name for about a minute," Tikhonov told RussianProspects.com. "That was the coolest thing in the world. I will always remember that."
Tikhonov returned to Russia and played for Cherepovets in the Russian Super League, where he scored six goals and added six assists for 12 points in 43 games.
While the older Viktor comes to the younger Viktor’s games in Russia, he keeps his advice to a minimum to optimize his family relationship with his grandson.
"He’d say, 'You did this good, keep doing it.’ Or, ‘You did this bad,’" the younger Viktor told East Valley Tribune. "Otherwise he was just a normal, caring grandpa. He’d say, 'Let’s go home and have grandma make you something to eat.’"
In addition to playing in Russia, Tikhonov was finally able to play for Russia last season in international competition after passport troubles.
"Being able to play for your country is an awesome feeling," Tikhonov told RussianProspects.com. "I got goose bumps the first time the Russian anthem was playing while I was wearing the jersey."
Tikhonov made the most of his opportunity. Playing for Russia at the 2008 World Junior Championship, he had five goals in seven games and was named the tournament’s best forward.
Two-time Stanley Cup champion Sergei Nemchinov coached the team, and Tikhonov appreciated his experience and understanding of the game.
"He did a great job in my opinion," Tikhonov said. "Mr. Nemchinov has great understanding of both Russian and North American hockey. He has lots of NHL experience as an NHL player, winning two Stanley Cups. I was really surprised by how he explained game situations to us players. Very easy to understand and interesting. Not one word could escape your ears."
When Tikhonov makes it to Phoenix he will join an elite group of young forwards the Coyotes have drafted in recent years, which includes the eighth pick of the 2008 draft, Mikkel Boedker
, Kyle Turris and Peter Mueller
Author: Adam Schwartz | NHL.com Staff Writer