MOSCOW, July 13 (R-Sport) - New CSKA Moscow hockey coach John Torchetti's sole focus is on winning the KHL championship, he said upon arriving in the Russian capital on Sunday.
Boston-born Torchetti is the first North American head coach of CSKA, which has been spending big in the hope of lifting the Gagarin Cup and ending its 24-year wait for a league championship. He joins NHL legend Sergei Fedorov, who is overseeing CSKA's rise as the Moscow team's general manager.
“I would love to win the championship for one, that’s my most important objective of being here,” he said. “We want to be one of the top, elite clubs, so I’m looking forward to getting to work.”
CSKA’s decades as the powerhouse of Soviet hockey made coming to Russia an incredibly attractive proposition, Torchetti added.
“This is a great opportunity and this is one of the richest traditions in sports to coach and I’m really honored to be here,” he said.
Reeling off a list of Soviet greats, Torchetti enthused about his new surroundings.
“I remember as a young boy watching a lot of the great players play,” he said. “To be in the same rink where those guys skated, where Anatoly Tarasov coached and Viktor Tikhonov … one of the greatest things you can have as a coach is to be in the same building as those guys, to be with Valery Kharlamov, where he skated.”
Torchetti added he had discussed the move with other North American coaches with KHL experience. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s Tom Rowe and the former Metallurg Magnitogorsk head coach and assistant coach Paul Maurice and Barry Smith.
The ex-Florida Panthers and Los Angeles Kings interim coach, 49, succeeds Vyacheslav Butsayev, who was in charge in an acting capacity for the last 24 games of last season until a Western Conference semifinal exit in the playoffs.
Butsayev will stay on as Torchetti’s assistant, along with Daniel Brooks, two-time Stanley Cup winner Sergei Zubov and goaltender coach Jari Kaarela.
Torchetti said he and Butsayev had a friendship dating back to the Russian's days playing for Torchetti in the U.S. minor leagues and during their time with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL.
“We’ve got a good team in here," he said. "Butsi’s been part of this and we’ve studied some film already, of the playoffs. Sergei [Fedorov] gave me some film when we met and I’ve studied that."
Torchetti spent 27 games with the Panthers in 2003-04 and then 12 games with the Kings two years later, and has also been an assistant coach at three other NHL teams.
Most recently, he was in charge of the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros.
CSKA won 32 titles in its Soviet glory days but has yet to taste glory since then.