Anatoly Khorozov | Trans-Tasman Series Review

Anatoly Khorozov | Trans-Tasman Series Review

Anatoly Khorozov is best known as head coach of the Canterbury Red Devils and New Zealand Ice Blacks, but this is not all that Anatoly has accomplished. From player to coach, Anatoly has seen both sides of the game. With decades of experience from around the world, Anatoly is a world-class coach with a magnitude of knowledge to offer. 

Anatoly’s hockey career began in Kyiv, Soviet Ukraine, where he first started playing at the age of seven. Anatoly’s uncle was involved in the game, which prompted Anatoly himself to start playing. He began by playing on ponds and rivers in the winter before progressing into playing properly. Anatoly played for the Hockey Club Sokil Kyiv in the 1985-1986 season. Sokil Kyiv is part of the Ukrainian Professional Hockey League which would be the equivalent of representative hockey. When Anatoly reached high school, he attended ShVSM Kyiv, an ice hockey academy that combined study and hockey. The abbreviation stands for the School of Higher Sports Mastery, a network of schools across Ukraine. Anatoly attended ShVSM Kyiv from 1986 to 1990, with his entry into the school in 1986 marking his first professional contract. Anatoly’s playing career ended in 1993 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, where he turned to coaching kids. 

Anatoly relocated to Scotland, where the Dumfries Vikings were without a coach. Anatoly was asked to fill the position and he accepted and led the Vikings to the first division of the top ice hockey league in Britain. He coached the Vikings from 1993 to 1995, and occasionally played for the Vikings, but stuck to coaching primarily. 

Following the birth of his first child, Anatoly and his wife were seeking a change of lifestyle. Initially, they looked to Canada, however that proved too difficult and so they looked to New Zealand which was much easier. Anatoly was unaware that New Zealand had ice hockey when he first moved here, but he quickly got in contact with Graeme Glass and Johnny Argyle. Anatoly played for the Canterbury Red Devils from 2005 to 2008, however, in the 2006/2007 season, he began coaching and acted as a playing coach. In 2004 Anatoly also acted as head coach of the West Auckland Admirals. Anatoly began coaching in New Zealand by getting to know people. Anatoly applied for the position of head coach of the New Zealand under 18’s in 2004 and was asked to coach the under 20’s New Zealand team in the 2004/2005, 2005/2006 and 2016/2017 seasons. 

In 2013, Anatoly acted as assistant coach of Beibarys Atyrau from 2013 to 2015. Anatoly got this position through his connections in the hockey world. Beibarys Atyrau is a professional ice hockey team in Kazakstan that plays in the top hockey league in Kazakstan. 

Anatoly began acting as head coach of the Canterbury Red Devils in 2011 and has been their head coach ever since aside from the two-year break to coach in Kazakstan. Anatoly identifies the big differences between now and then as “the league is better; there is more skill, more structure and more competition.”

In 2016, Anatoly was head coach of the New Zealand under ’20s. The New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation asked Anatoly to act as assistant coach of the New Zealand Ice Blacks, which Anatoly accepted as he believed he could do both positions. Since 2017, Anatoly has been the head coach of the New Zealand Ice Blacks. Anatoly identifies the biggest challenges of the last three years without IIHF competition for the Ice Blacks as “not being able to play as the players need a chance to see the challenge, playing your own competition, difficulty in getting people focused on the game and the lack of something for the players to play for.” 

Two weekends ago, the Ice Blacks faced off against Australia’s Mighty Roos, making it the Ice Black’s first international competition in three years. We caught up with Anatoly before the series. Anatoly was most looking forward to “50% more game time of good quality, good competition and getting a challenge.” The biggest challenge with COVID seen by Anatoly was “Having regional ice time and local competition but no goals or dreams, which made it difficult for players to focus and train. It was also difficult to motivate players to improve or stay at the same level.

With goals and expectations in mind, the Ice Blacks didn’t quite achieve what they set out to do. However, they gave an outstanding performance and made the hockey community back home proud, given playing away from home and against a stronger side. Anatoly says that the series “Was good. More of these will be better for the development of players. The organisation of the tournament and the facilities were good, and it is always good to play against a better team.”

Moving forward, Anatoly is taking one step at a time. “Things like the Triple Star camp and the potential return series will help develop the Ice Blacks, hopefully leading to a stronger team.” To bridge the gap between Australia and New Zealand, Anatoly sees no simple answer. “Long term we need better competition and more games across all levels. We also need to have the plan to improve local competitions and have better games with better quality to produce better Ice Blacks.” The Ice Blacks are a reflection of New Zealand ice hockey. Anatoly says “If we want to get better we need to get better internally by having more teams, more players and better competition.”

The annual Triple Star Camp is to be held this December, where invited prospective players for national teams come together to train and play under the guidance of New Zealand’s best coaches. Anatoly is one of these coaches and is looking forward to “Getting everyone together and developing players, it is good for the younger players to have Ice Blacks involved with their training.” 

The NZIHF has been working on a potential return series against Australia in New Zealand. Anatoly sees this return series as “Help for preparation for the IIHF tournament coming up in April. We are in a difficult position as we are coming from an off-season whereas other teams will be at the end of their seasons.”

In April of next year, the Ice Blacks are to compete in the IIHF World Championship in Division II Group B. The Kiwis will be playing in Istanbul, Turkey and will be up against Turkey, Bulgaria, Belgium, United Arab Emirates and Mexico. Anatoly thinks “It is hard to know what to expect as there are new teams and it is a new structure, Turkey is back in our pool and we have never versed the United Arab Emirates or Belgium.”

Anatoly’s ice hockey legacy lives through his daughter Veronica, who also loves the game. “I was surprised when she started up again as when she was seven or eight years old everyone was older than her so it wasn’t fun for her and she stopped. One day she wanted to try again and has barely missed a practice since.”