Russia HC Bilyaletdinov: 'Eat me alive right now ... and I won't be here anymore'

Chris Battaglia

Russia's stunning early elimination from the men's hockey tournament in the quarterfinals against Finland on Wednesday left the proud nation scrambling for answers, starting at the team's despondent head coach.

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov took full responsibility for the team's performance after the disappointing finish, describing the tournament as "unsuccessful" during a post-game press conference but refusing to second-guess decisions in the heat of the moment.

"I don't want to talk about this now," Bilyaletdinov said when asked about whether or not he would shuffle the lines if given another chance. "I'm at fault for everything. I didn't fulfill the task before me."

Bilyaletdinov also apologized to Russian fans for not meeting expectations.

A rare moment of levity occurred after the press conference in a the middle of a scrum between Bilyaletdinov Russian reporters, who provided this exchange:

Q (Reporter): What future, if any, do you see for your own work and for your coaching staff? Because, you know, your predecessor was eaten alive after the Olympics—

A (Bilyaletdinov): Well then, eat me alive right now—

Q: No, I mean—

A: Eat me, and I won't be here anymore.

Q: But we have the world championship coming up!

A: Well then, there will be a different coach because I won't exist any more, since you will have eaten me.

Q: But you're staying, aren't you?

A: Yes, I will remain living.