Edinburgh Capitals have appointed former National Hockey League all-star Dmitri Khristich as their new head coach for the 2017-18 ice hockey season which gets underway in September.
In a shock move for the small-budget club, the 47-year old former Ukraine and Soviet Union internationalist becomes arguably the most highly-decorated player to ever coach in this country.
Khristich, who won a world championship with the Soviet Union in 1990, was drafted to the NHL the following year and in a sparkling career iced in just shy of 900 games in North America. The left winger scored more than 600 points across 11 seasons with four different clubs and we was twice selected as an all-star in 1996 and 1998.
Khristich, who played in the Winter Olympics with Ukraine in 2002, began a three-year stint as the Ukrainian national team assistant coach in 2010. He joins Edinburgh from the coaching staff of Russian cracks Amur Khabarovsk, who play in the Continental Hockey League (KHL).
Capitals co-owner Scott Neil is delighted with the appointment, saying: “We were looking to find a new angle, basically to help us compete, and to win. We were very happy with how (former KHL players) Pavel Vorobyov and Gino Fyodorov performed and interacted with us last year. Going down that route, and getting a coach of his calibre and experience will be a tremendous asset to the club.
“He will bring his experience in a number of ways, throughout his career he’s been involved in a number of aspects of the game and the business. I’m sure he’ll bring all sorts of positives and opportunities to the team.
“Dmitri and I spoke at length about our views on how to drive the club forward, and I’m looking forward to working with him over the coming months.
“His desire, commitment and work ethic impressed me, and he understands we need to recruit well to win. At the head of it all there are very few people out there with his level of experience, in the end it was a no-brainer for the club.”
In a break from the norm for the Murrayfield men, Khristich, who replaces former player-coach Michal Dobron at the helm, becomes Edinburgh’s first head coach since Brad Gratton in 2010 not to combine coaching with a playing role.
Neil said: “First of all, I take my hat off to the guys who have acted as player-coach for us in the past because it is such a difficult job. To manage players at this level, whilst still having to focus on your own game, it’s an exceptional amount of work.
“With Dmitri, we’re getting someone who was an absolute world-class star as a player, and has been involved in the game ever since. To have him focusing solely on team affairs, structure, systems, preparation, player development, is something we need as a club to move forward. Teams across the league are becoming more organised and we needed to do this, or we will fall behind.”
With Edinburgh having only four players under contract for next season, Khristich and Neil will have a busy time recruiting a team ahead of the Elite League Scottish Cup Weekend, to be held at Murrayfield on the September 9-10. However, with his coach now in place, Neil expects to get the ball rolling quickly.
Neil continued: “I don’t want to tip anyone off on our targets, but we have players lined up and things could take shape relatively quickly. I’m expecting we’ll be in a position to announce quite a few players in the near future.
“I’m excited and optimistic about the team we can put out on the ice. We had a competitive team last year, but we want to give our fans something more. We want to build this club up over time, in to one that can win.”