Anatoli Vladimirovitch Tarasov (Russian: Анатолий Владимирович Тарасов) (10 December 1918 - 23 June 1995, both in Moscow) was an ice hockey coach, styled by Encyclopædia Britannica "the father of Russian hockey", who established the Soviet Union as "the dominant force in international competition". He was one of the first Russians to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 1974 in the builders category. He was also a footballer and football manager, but is best known for his work in developing the USSR's ice hockey program.
After World War II, Tarasov was asked to put together a hockey program from scratch. He helped found a hockey department at the Red Army's sports club, CSKA Moscow with little more than several old hockey rulebooks. Before then, the most popular ice sport in Russia and the Soviet Union was bandy, a sport similar to field hockey. The Russian style of hockey, with its emphasis on skating skill, offense and passing, is still heavily influenced by bandy.
Tarasov served either as coach or co-coach of CSKA Moscow from 1946 to 1975, except for three short breaks in 1960, 1964 and 1972. He was named coach of the Soviet national team in 1958, a post he held until 1972.
When hockey was introduced in the USSR, Tarasov, like the rest of the nation, fell in love with the game. It was his ideals and philosophies that shaped the Russian game into what it is today- fast, graceful, non-individualistic, and patriotic. To him, real teamwork was based on a common aim- comradeship and caring for each team member. This is why he introduced a rule that in order to make the line-up the team had to approve of each player
Anatoli devised many new training techniques. Most of them centered on passing, for he felt passing was the key to their success, "after all, the ultimate aim of a pass was to get a free player. So if our opponents make 150 passes in a game against our 270, this means we had 120 more playing opportunities."
Tarasov's practices included the use of pylons and simple drills that would have looked silly to Canadians, but to the Russians they had great meaning as they looked to perfect each skill. While performing these he had his players in constant motion. He called this the assembly method.
Many great players developed under his system in the 1960s. Among these were heroes like: Davidov, Firsov, Starshinov, Alexandrov, Ragulin, Yakushev, Loktev, and goalie, Konavolenko. Then these were followed by other greats who would represent the Soviet Union in 1972 against Canada. These included: Mikhailov, Petrov, Vasiliev, Maltsev, Kharlamov, and a brilliant young goaltender named Vladislav Tretiak.
Tarasov was the biggest factor in the development of this goalie, Tretiak, who would be destined to become the most skillful and cherished in international history. In the earliest days of his career, Tarasov had him doing three practices a day as hard as possible while using the maximum consumption of oxygen (MCO). In one instance a Swede player came to practice in the USSR with Tarasov, but he couldn't last. He reportedly said, "We Swedes don't' grow up to practice like this. I don't want to die."
According to Tretiak, "If I let in just one puck, Tarasov would ask me the next day "What's the matter?" If it was my fault (and it usually appears to be the goalkeeper's fault), my punishment would follow immediately. After everybody else had gone home I had to do hundreds of lunges and somersaults. I could have cheated and not done them at all, since nobody was watching me- the coaches had gone home too! But I wouldn't even have considered doing one less lunge or somersault. I trusted Tarasov, trusted his every word, even when he criticized me for letting the pucks in my net during practice."
At CSKA Moscow, he won 19 Soviet titles, including all but five from 1955 to 1975 and three instances of winning four titles in a row. He led the Soviet national team to 9 straight world championships, including 3 Olympic gold medals (for most of his tenure, the Olympic championship was considered the world championship). In 1972, Tarasov was fired. Two years later, Tarasov became the first Soviet to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Tarasov was known for his ruthless training methods, tough discipline among his players and innovative, instinctive decisions. Many of his methods are continued by his daughter Tatiana Tarasova.
Today, the Kontinental Hockey League has a division bearing his name, recognizing his role in the development of ice hockey in the USSR and eventually Russia.