One family, three generations, countless memories on the rink.
The Tikhonov name is well-known to big fans of ice hockey. Viktor Tikhonov, Jr. is carrying on the family’s legacy in the sport, which began in the Soviet Union decades ago.
Tikhonov, Jr., 25, was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in the NHL in 2008 before he would play for a minor league team. Then he joined the St. Petersburg team in Russia. On Thursday, he will take center stage at the Olympics, going for the gold on Team Russia.
“Before Viktor was born, we knew he was going to play,” said Tatjana “Tiki” Tikhonov, Viktor, Jr.’s older sister. “We played hockey, dreamed hockey, ate hockey, slept hockey, everything was hockey.”
It began with their grandfather, Viktor, Sr., who would be inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame for his notable playing and coaching. Hal Nunn, who coached the Santa Clara Blackhawks ice hockey team for 18 years, described Viktor, Sr. as “hockey royalty.” When the Tikhonovs moved to the Bay Area, he said it was exactly what the sport needed.
“It would be the equivalent of football having Vince Lombardi’s family come to your area,” said Nunn. “There was a big void here for hockey. There wasn’t even a minor league team here so we really needed something to boost junior hockey here in Northern California.”
Tim Murray helped the family when they moved to the U.S. He was working in immigration at the airport when he met them, and as a big ice hockey fan, eventually became a close family friend.
“The grandfather was the greatest Olympic hockey coach ever, and he had the most wins ever. He was just a legend,” Murray said.
Viktor, Sr.’s son, Vasily, would eventually make his own name, even working with the San Jose Sharks as an assistant coach.
“Everything that we’ve trained for, everything our dad has taught us that he learned from his dad, our grandfather, obviously shined through in my brother and I. I‘m still in hockey,” said Tiki, who coaches a junior league team.
And that family name and legacy isn’t lost on their town of Los Gatos. Just a stone’s throw away from where the Tikhonovs live is the newly-opened Hult’s Restaurant. Owner and former professional hockey player, once drafted by the San Jose Sharks, Alex Hult, believes the young player from the South Bay will help inspire more local youth to go into ice hockey.
“You’re always going to have these like professional guys they come in to make their money, they do their job and they do it well, but it’s not the same thing in having local guys born and raised here,” Hult said. “You just get a whole different following, like different passion for the game and I know Viktor would be the best role model.”
Cathy Andrade, who helped train Viktor, Jr. when he was younger, agreed.
“It just brings it home and makes it possible that it can happen. To watch somebody from eight become an Olympian and especially someone like Viktor. You don’t meet people that are thankful and humble. He is a great role model when he walks in the rink,” said Andrade. “I have a 14-year-old son. You want them to look up to someone like Viktor.”
And for Rob Tenore, a family friend and fellow ice hockey player, it’s all about putting more spotlight on the sport that has not gotten the same amount of attention as other professional games.
“I believe it’s really going to help hockey in the Bay Area, help solidify it a little more,” Tenore said. “It’s great to have hometown heroes or hometown idols.”
Viktor, Jr. will be vying for gold for the same team his grandfather, Viktor, Sr., won three times as coach of what was the Soviet national team.
But the biggest cheerleader of them all won’t be sitting on the same couch with family and friends, rooting on Viktor, Jr.
His father, Vasily, passed away unexpected last August after a fall from his house in Russia. Through tears, Tiki told NBC Bay Area she has no doubt he’ll be watching right alongside them, in fact, as the loudest one of all.
“He’s probably screaming up there right now. He’s going to be shouting and cheering, and I think whole heaven is going to go crazy rooting for Russia.”
Team Russia takes on Slovenia and the U.S. team faces off against Slovakia on Thursday.