Ignatjevs takes over as head coach

19 July 2023

Last year’s assistant back with a bigger roleo

With the Dragons back together for pre-season, Viktors Ignatjevs is the new head coach for Kunlun Red Star’s upcoming KHL campaign.

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Ignatjevs, 53, takes over from Greg Ireland after serving as his assistant last term. But his connection to KRS goes deeper than that. Back in 2019/20, the Latvian was an assistant to Mark Kumpel on our VHL team, KRS-BSU.

As the Dragons’ executive vice-president Nikita Feoktistov explained, that connection is a big part of the thinking behind this appointment.

“This is not his first year working with KRS, and he is well acquainted with our national team players. Given has diverse experience, we are confident that Viktors Ignatjevs is the best candidate for the position of head coach. We very much hope that under his leadership, the club and the national team will be able to achieve their aims for the coming season.”

Once again, it promises to be a busy year for club and country. As well as a full KHL campaign and a World Championship Division IB tournament, 2023/24 also sees the start of Olympic qualification. This is familiar territory for Ignatjevs, who was part of Harijs Vitolins’ coaching staff as Latvia went through the qualifiers to reach the 2022 Games in Beijing.

“Viktors Ignatjevs has a wealth of experience working with Team Latvia, not just at World Championships and Olympic Games, but also in qualifying,” added Feoktistov. “More importantly, that experience was successful.”

Kumpel is on the staff with Ignatjevs again this year, and the pair formed a strong working relationship in the VHL and as assistants to Ireland last season. “Before I joined KRS [in 2019], I always worked with coaches who I knew personally,” Ignatjevs told the La.lv website in an interview to mark his 50th birthday. “This was the first time when I didn’t know the main man, but he turned out to be a super person and we had a cool team.”

In the VHL, Ignatjevs led the work on the team’s defense – no surprise, given a long playing career on the blue line. As a player, he managed 11 games in the NHL, fulfilling a lifelong dream after signing for Pittsburgh in 1998 following seven years in the IHL. He would have played more, had injury not ruled him out of most of that season. Later, the Riga native returned to Europe and played in one Olympics and five World Championships with Latvia. His coaching career began in 2010 at Dinamo Riga and he has been on the staff at several KHL clubs.

Significantly, retaining these two coaches, plus goalie coach Vladimir Kulikov, means the Dragons will enjoy great continuity going into the new season. Much of the playing roster is familiar as well, with last season’s core returning to the team.

Pre-season camp is already underway in Mytishchi, and we’re looking forward to welcoming more players to the team in the coming days and weeks. Our first pre-season action is scheduled for Aug. 11-13 in Togliatti, where the Dragons will compete in the Lada Cup. And that will be a first chance for us to see Ignatjevs’ team on the ice.

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