Yashin helps Russian women's club on ice
OTTAWA (AP) - Former Ottawa Senators star Alexei Yashin is back in Canada's capital city, this time as a hockey executive with Russia's women's hockey team.
Yashin was recently named general manager of the club in an attempt to help his home country's chances of earning a medal at next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
He is now overseeing the team at the women's world championships in Ottawa. Yashin doesn't sit in the stands and watch practice, he instead is out on the ice participating in drills and giving the women tips.
"I saw the biggest opportunity where I can really help,'' Yashin said. "I saw a lot of things I could bring to the table.
"These girls, they needed some spark and some attention toward them. I was hoping I could bring certain things that other people can't with some of my experience and connections.''
Russia didn't win a game in last year's world championship in Burlington, Vt., but could finish no worse than sixth because they were seeded in the top group.
The Russians were seeded in the second group in Ottawa and are 4-0 heading into Monday's semifinal against Canada. The stated goal is to win bronze in women's hockey in Sochi.
"When a proven NHL pro steps on the ice, just even watching him and his body language and how he moves can even help the players improve and also gives them confidence,'' Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser said.
"I know that in Russia, in a lot of cases, they think women should not be playing hockey, so for a player like that to step up and say, `Hey, I believe in this team and this program' that says a lot for those women and gives them a lot to go on.''
The Russian Ice Hockey Federation named Mikhail Chekanov as the women's new coach for this year. But Yashin's appointment is groundbreaking for women's hockey in a country that ignored it until Sochi won the bid to host the Olympics.
"His name brings a lot of attention to our team, especially in Russia,'' forward Iya Gavrilova says. "We've got more sponsorship coming to the team, we get more attention from the media. People now recognize that they have a women's team in Russia.''
"He goes on the ice and he practices with us. He shows his skills and shares a lot of experience. He sees a lot of little things and suggests a lot of things like how to make little plays on the power play and how to play in front of the net.''
Yashin, 39, played a dozen seasons in the NHL for the Senators and the New York Islanders. He also represented Russia at three Olympics.
Chosen No. 2 overall in the 1992 NHL draft by Ottawa, Yashin helped the Senators win their first playoff series in 1998. He scored 94 points for Ottawa in the 1998-99 season and was an MVP finalist that year, but sat out the following season in a contract dispute.
"A lot of people remember me from when I was playing here, so it's very good,'' Yashin says. "They're very receptive.''
"It's part of my life. I was here for eight years. It's been a great experience.''
The Senators dealt him in 2001 to the Islanders, who signed him to what was then an astounding 10-year, $87.5 million contract. The Islanders never made it out of the first round during his five seasons there.
After a knee injury abbreviated his 2006-07 season, the Islanders bought out his contract even though there were several years remaining on it.
Yashin played five seasons in Russia and his last with CKSA Moscow in 2011-12.