THE BIGGEST name in the NHL draft last Friday was Viktor Tikhonov, a first-round selection of the Phoenix Coyotes. Not the biggest-name player—just the biggest hockey name. Tikhonov's grandfather is the Viktor Tikhonov, who coached the Central Red Army and the Soviet Union national teams in the 1970s and '80s. The now 78-year-old hockey despot controlled his squads for 11 months of each year (the players lived in barracks) and famously ran them according to what Hall of Fame center Igor Larionov once called "Stalinist tactics."
"I would have loved to try," young Tikhonov said when asked if he would have wanted to play for his grandfather. "I heard all the stories. I heard them from him, too. It's kind of weird because as a grandfather, he's just a loving, caring person."
If the boss of Soviet hockey faced the world with a dour glare and matching personality, his cherubic grandson is as perpetually sunny as California, where he grew up and started playing hockey. (Tikhonov's father, Vasily, was a San Jose Sharks assistant coach from 1993 to '96.) Indeed, young Tikhonov, whose English sounds as though it came out of a mall, didn't even acquire a Russian passport until last summer, when he played in the world junior championships with Team Russia. He scored five goals in seven games and was named the tournament's best forward.
Phoenix general manager Don Maloney traded two second-round picks to Anaheim to move up to No. 28 and select the 20-year-old, who played for Cherepovets in the Russian Superleague last season. (In a reminder of the ever-shrinking hockey world, Coyotes coach and managing partner Wayne Gretzky, who often played against Viktor Tikhonov's teams, made the draft announcement. "He's the Man," young Tikhonov said after Gretzky called his name.) The Coyotes plan to bulk him up—Maloney joked he would put the 6'2", 187-pound winger on a "scout's diet"—and they think Tikhonov can pull third-line NHL minutes next season. "His personality fits," Maloney said. "He's upbeat, a fun guy to talk to, and we really like his game.... We look at him as a California kid playing in Russia, not as a Russian player."
The apple can fall far from the tree.
The Pop Culture Grid
How do sports stars fit in?
Coldplay, Rihanna or Lil' Wayne
_______ has the coolest name in sports
Least favorite animal
Last movie that you went to see twice
People would be surprised to hear I ...
RYAN THERIOT Cubs SS
Lil' Wayne, of course
Kosuke Fukudome (right)
Lord of the Rings
Listen to gangsta rap on my iPod
LISA LESLIE Sparks C
Snake, but I like snakeskin purses
The Great Debaters
Hate peanut butter
AARON COOK Rockies P
Pirates of the Caribbean
Will eat a double cheeseburger an hour before I pitch
JUSTIN DUCHSCHERER Athletics P
I don't listen to any of them
The Incredible Hulk
Read a lot
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PATRICK DOYLE/REUTERS (GRETZKY AND TIKHONOV)
RED LINE Gretzky battled the elder, nabbed the younger.
BRUCE BENNETT STUDIOS/GETTY IMAGES (TIKHONOV)
UNIVERSAL/EVERETT COLLECTION (HULK)
MARK J. REBILAS/US PRESSWIRE (THERIOT)
ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES (LIL' WAYNE)
SIMON BRUTY (FUKUDOME)
TODD BIGELOW/AURORA (LESLIE)
FRANK MICELOTTA/GETTY IMAGES (RIHANNA)
KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/AP (COOK)
JASON WISE/MLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (DUCHSCHERER)
ALLEY CAT PRODUCTIONS/BRAND X/CORBIS (CAT)