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Kovalchuk Named GM of Russian Olympic Team

Ilya Kovalchuk has been named general manager of Russia's Olympic team that is set to vie for gold in Beijing.
Ilya Kovalchuk

One of Russia's greatest hockey players will now usher in his country's next generation.

Ilya Kovalchuk was announced as GM of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation on Monday morning, tasked with overseeing the team that will take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Bejing. 

While Kovalchuk is a legendary figure in Russian hockey circles, this is somewhat of a surprising appointment given that, as of August 25th, the veteran sniper had publicly stated that he had not been considering retirement. 

Kovalchuk last played for the KHL's Avangard Omsk in 2021, racking up 17 points in 16 regular-season games. Now, he will be tasked with building a roster capable of capturing Gold in the first Olympic Games to feature NHL talent since 2014. 

Kovalchuk is not the only former NHLer on Russia's staff, either. 

Alexi Zhamnov, who spent 13 seasons in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets, among other teams, is installed as head coach. All-Star defenceman Sergei Gonchar is among Zhamnov's assistants, alongside former Toronto Maple Leaf Alexei Kudashov, who spent a single season overseas in 1994. Evgeni Nabokov, long-time netminder of the San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders, is Russia's goaltending coach. 

If Olympic medals were won purely on coaching talent, Russia would be a bonafide contender. 

Alas, they are not. But Kovalchuk's experience is indeed among the primary reasons for his appointment. 

Zhamnov confirmed that sentiment exactly, stating that the decision to name Kovalchuk to the general manager's post came largely due to his extensive knowledge of both NHL and KHL talent. And given how players from both leagues will be taking part in these Olympics for the first time in eight years, that will certainly go a long way. 

Fans will have to wait to see if Kovalchuk's prowess on the ice translates to the front office.  

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