As NHL talent makes its return to Olympic ice for the first time since 2014, Russia has decided to follow suit in building their coaching staff, as well.
The Russian Ice Hockey Federation officially unveiled its coaching staff for the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Tuesday morning, debuting a contingent littered with former NHL players from top-to-bottom.
Assuming head coaching duties is Alexei Zhamnov, a former centre who played 13 seasons in the NHL from 1992-2006, most notably with the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks.
Joining him on Russia's bench is a name most hockey fans are familiar with in Sergei Gonchar, a superstar defenceman who compiled an illustrious career that spanned 20 NHL seasons, and featured over 1,300 games, 800 points, and a Stanley Cup. Gonchar has the coaching experience to back up his appointment, last serving as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2017-2020, and, prior to that, as the team's development coach from 2015-2017.
Another hockey legend, Sergei Fedorov, will stand alongside Zhamnov in Beijing, only adding to the talent of the nation's coaching staff. Fedorov is a Hall of Famer, three-time Stanley Cup winner, and one of the most skilled players to ever touch professional ice -- Russian or otherwise. Fedorov has experience in hockey operations of his own, serving as General Manager of the KHL's CSKA Moscow from 2012-2017 before returning to the club as its head coach in 2021.
Alexei Kudashov, who played one season for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1994, rounds out the assistants.
Russia's goaltenders are in good hands, too, with former San Jose Sharks netminders Evgeni Nabokov being appointed to the role of goaltending coach. Nabokov, who played nearly 700 NHL games throughout his 14-year career, is one of the best Russian-born goaltenders the league has ever seen, most notably compiling a remarkable 10-year stint with the Sharks from 1999-2010 that included a Calder Trophy, one first-team All-Star selection, and five top-five finishes in Vezina Trophy voting.
Rounding out the main staff is Ilya Kovalchuk, who is listed as the team's Manager for NHL Relations in a slight change from Monday's news when he was seemingly named as general manager. Regardless, Kovalchuk's extensive knowledge of both NHL and KHL talent will likely be the focal point of his duties and serve well in helping build a formidable roster.
Igor Yesmantovich and Valeri Kamensky will serve as advisors to the head coach.
If gold medals could be won by the talent behind a team's bench, Russia enter the games as the overwhelming favourite.