OMSK, Russia, October 5 (RIA Novosti)
The governor of the Russia region that finances KHL team Avangard Omsk said Friday that talk of firing head coach Petri Matikainen was premature.
Avangard, last season's losing Gagarin Cup finalist, sits ninth in the Eastern Conference with seven wins in 12 games, just two of those victories coming in regulation time.
The team appears to be regaining a bit of form, putting together a run of three wins after a wretched patch of five-straight defeats caused consternation among the Siberian team's fans and put Matikainen's position in doubt.
But Omsk region governor Viktor Nazarov said he had confidence in the Finn after talks with him and the rest of the team on Friday.
"He assured me that everything's fine," Nazarov said. "Some fans are asking why Matikainen never seems to react to what happens on the ice, never shouts."
"I spoke with Petri, and I came to understand that he's quite a calm coach. I asked him: 'Is that your style or do you have the composure of a policeman?' Petri answered: 'I work with the guys in training, in the locker room, and I mustn't show my emotions on the ice.'"
Nazarov added: "I think it's too early to change the coach."
Meanwhile, Nazarov said he was in talks with state energy major Gazprom to increase its sponsorship in the team because "you can't finance the team from the regional budget only."
Before entering office earlier this year, Nazarov had vowed to seek alternative sources of finance to the Omsk regional budget, calling the hockey team "too expensive a toy" for the tax-payer.
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said in May the company would double its sponsorship to $30 million annually.
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