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CSKA to CAHA: Building Pee Wee AAA hockey, Soviet style

 

Grecia mug shot NEW

Former member of the Red Army hockey program and student of Anatoli Tarasov, the father of Russian ice hockey, Grigoriy (Grecia) Bocharov will be returning next year to the California Amateur Hockey Association as the head coach for the San Diego Jr. Gulls’ Pee Wee AAA 2005 team.

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This appointment marks a significant shift for Bocharov, who has spent recent years focusing on player development at the Mite and Squirt levels. Given Bocharov’s unique background, this appointment also brings a much-welcomed boost to AAA hockey in Southern California.

From early childhood through semi-pro, Bocharov skated for the Red Army in Moscow. Footage of a practice from his early days with the club can be seen in Gabe Polsky’s “Red Army,” a recent documentary about the Soviet National Team. After the Red Army, Bocharov played professionally in the last year of the International Hockey League, a predecessor to the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.

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Aside from playing experience, what distinguishes Bocharov is the formal training he received at the Russian State Academy of Physical Education. Majoring in ice hockey, Bocharov studied hockey and coaching methods for two years under Tarasov, the man credited with inventing Soviet hockey and building the Soviet National Team into a dominant force on the world stage.

cska 1975 in 1990 on the ice

After moving to the U.S. in 1996, Bocharov started coaching in 1999 as an assistant coach for the Jr. Gulls’ Pee Wee AA and Midget AAA teams and the following season as the head coach of the Bantam A team. After getting married in 2002, he left the Jr. Gulls to work at Ice Town Riverside, and later at Ice Town La Jolla. He rejoined the Jr. Gulls in 2010 when he took over as adult and in-house hockey director at Ice-Plex Escondido. Since 2011, Bocharov has been coaching the Jr. Gulls Mites and Squirts.

Last year, he had his trial return to AAA hockey by assisting with the AAA Major 2004 team. That team, despite a rough start, finished strong by knocking the San Jose Jr. Sharks out of the playoffs and winning the Presidents’ Day tournament in El Segundo.

True to his roots, Bocharov will undoubtedly shape his new team into a truly effective unit. Bocharov said there is much to be excited about when it comes to the Jr. Gulls program, especially with his Pee Wee 2005 team for the 2017-18 season.

“The Jr. Gulls are the biggest San Diego club, and all the best kids in San Diego eventually end up playing for the Jr. Gulls,” said Bocharov. “This year with coaching the Pee Wee AAA Major team, hopefully, all the best 2005 birth year kids in town will play for me. So I’m excited about an opportunity to coach the best kids from San Diego, but of course, not closed for the option to also coach kids from Orange County or Los Angeles as well.”

The Pee Wee AAA may be just the beginning for Bocharov’s ‘05s next season. If he can hone their individual skills toward the end of strong team play, look to Bocharov’s group as leading contenders as they move into Bantams and Midgets.

“I would expect nothing less than hard work and dedication from all the players on our team with hopes to become very competitive with the Jr. Ducks and Jr. Kings, whose 2005 teams have been ranked nationally as some of the top teams in the country,” Bocharov said. “We will have humble beginnings, but with the hard work and dedication, I’m sure we’ll reach good results at the end of the season.”

— Matt Mackinder