"Boris Kulagin has a gift of being able to find the right approach to every player on the team. He always take in consideration each players' individuality. The most convincing example of his educational mastery is the story of the fascinating rise of the Krylya Sovetov."

Valery Kharlamov


Boris Kulagin (1924-1988),
USSR Merited Sports Coach (ZTR SSSR, 1969).
Player's Career:
- Played as a foward with the VVS club, scored 2 goals in 15 games in the USSR Elite Hockey League in 1947-1948
- Played in the USSR Soccer and Bandy Elite Leagues.
Coaching Career:
- CSKA Coach in 1961-1971
- Krylya Sovetov Moscow Head Coach in 1971-1976
- Spartak Moscow Head Coach in 1979-1984
- USSR Gold in 1974
- Team USSR Coach in 1972-1974
- Team USSR Head Coach in 1974-1977
- WC Gold in 1974-1975
- European Championship Gold in 1974-1975
- Olympics Gold in 1976
- Soviet Head Coach at the USSR vs. Team Canada (WHA) Summit in 1974
- Soviet Wings Head Coach at the Soviet Clubs vs. NHL Clubs Super Series in 1975/1976.


Boris KULAGIN was the second coach of Team USSR at the 1972 Summit. Ironically, Kulagin always seemed to be the second coach to the more established ones. As a coach of legendary CSKA in the 1960s, he was certainly overshadowed by his boss, Anatoly Tarasov. The glorious spotlight always goes to the first ones. Needless to say, Kulagin was a very good assistant coach. If nothing else, it was Kulagin who convinced Tarasov to give a second chance to Valery Kharlamov after the "father of Soviet hockey" wasn't impressed with the skill set of the young forward in the late 1960's. Tarasov's vision of hockey at that time was mostly focused on big athletes and small-sized Kharlamov didn't really fit into this concept.

In his younger years, Kulagin played soccer, bandy and some hockey in the elite leagues. He was a disciplined solid forward but arguably not a star material. He began his coaching career in 1955 and, after a long apprenticeship with Tarasov in the Red Army Club, he left CSKA in 1971 to take over a small mediocre Krylya Sovetov (Soviet Wings) team. Prior to Kulagin, the team had neither powerful sponsors like CSKA and Dynamo Moscow nor a well-established character like Spartak Moscow. Kulagin managed to rebuild the "Krylyshki" team from scratch. He brought in such young promising players as Lebedev, Anisin, Bodunov, Sidelnikov and mixed them with a few solid established players that, for some reason, were rejected by the bigger teams of the elite league. Kulagin's educational talent and unprecedented motivational skills brought the fantastic results. Krylya Sovetov became one of the top competitors in the USSR. Kulagin was able to beat the mighty CSKA led by Tarasov himself and won the national Championship in 1974.

In 1974, Kulagin was appointed as the head coach of Team USSR. Under his guidance, the team managed to win gold medals at several World Championships and at the Olympics in 1976, won the USSR vs. WHA Summit in 1974 and managed to have a successful CSKA and Krylya Sovetov vs. NHL teams tour in 1975/76. Kulagin was dismissed from the national team after a disappointing performance by the Soviet team at the World Championships in 1976-1977. The clock was ticking and the national team needed a new leader to bring back the glory of Soviet hockey on the international arena. The times of Victor Tikhonov were coming.

For a variety of reasons, Kulagin's place in the history of Soviet hockey is somehow ambiguous. The peak of his career belongs to the transitional time from dictatorial era of Tarasov in the 1960s to the decade triumphing strict discipline of Tikhonov's methodology. In a way, the years of the national team led by Bobrov and, then, by Kulagin in the mid 1970s were the only period of, what one might call, a "liberal" coaching in the history of Soviet hockey.