BOTW Reviews – King of Russia; a year in the Russian Super League

King of Russia; a year in the Russian Super League” by Dave King with Eric Duhatschek (Emblem Editions publishing)

Price: 11.98 (paperback)/10.78 (Kindle edition)

 

Dave King might be the most generic sounding name in the world but this particular Dave King has been and seen a bit of everything in the world of hockey. He’s been the head coach of the Calgary Flames and the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL as well as an assistant for Montreal and Phoenix. He’s been the head coach at 4 Olympics (3 as head coach of Canada, 1 as head coach of Japan) and coached in Germany, Sweden and as you can tell from the title, Russia.

The book, published in 2008 covers King’s time as coach of Metallurg Magnitogorsk during the 2005/06 season in what was the Russian Super League. Starting in July 2005 when King arrives in the industrial city of Magnitogorsk, some 1700km east of Moscow and 3 hours drive from the Russian border with Kazakhstan. The team is fuelled by money from Viktor Rashnikov, owner of the biggest employer in town MMK Steel. The book only technically has 4 chapters as the book is split up into the seasons, starting with summer and working its way through to the following spring and the playoff however the book is done in a diary format making it easy to pick the book up and put it down as and when you see fit.

The book covers the whole gambit of King’s experience in Russia. Alongside his views on the differences between North American and Russian hockey are the differences between North American and Russian living including the hunt for fresh vegetables, dealing with the team’s suspicious doctor and oligarchical owner and expectations on the team. King’s account, written with the assistance of Globe and Mail lead hockey columnist Eric Duhatschek, is well written and personal without feeling over the top or contrived. Whilst the majority of Canadians or westerners in general won’t understand what Russia as a country is like, it would be easy to think that King is going over the top with some of his descriptions as to what he experiences but it never feels like it. It feels authentic to read.

That season Metallurg Magnitogorsk had a very special player; Evgeni Malkin. King’s descriptions of his dealings with the now Stanley Cup winner are fascinating to read, especially the conflict between club and country as Malkin faced the prospect of playing Super League, world junior championships and in the Olympics. Malkin does get a lot of attention for obvious reasons but his observations on players he coached are never harsh or libellous but are exact and to the point. One player isn’t mentioned by name, “The Fish”, a player with a variety of issues who you will spend the entire book working out who they are from the roster page in the front of the book.

King of Russia is an excellent hockey book but I think there’s a little bit of an argument that this is a book that sports fans could easily read as well. A lot of King’s account of events from that time is disputed by the ownership of Metallurg, particularly the reason why he was fired (King claims its for poor results, the club claim its for encouraging Malkin to bolt for the NHL) but with this being a personal account you do need to take events with a little or a lot of salt depending on how you wish to view King.

As a hockey fan it’s a great read and gives an insight into a different bit of hockey culture. You will find yourself getting swept along as you wait for the next turn in the season or the next odd thing that King as his wife Linda find in the streets of Magnitogorsk.

The book gets a thumbs up from me. I’d recommend it as a definite buy if you’re a hockey fan, fans of sports books might be happy with just renting it.

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