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октябрь 1999 года.
In Protective Custody
Targeted on the ice and besieged by allegations off it, Pavel Bure can
count on his Florida Panthers to keep him safe and warm
Wearing dark suits and even darker shades, three men huddle around Pavel Bure like they are in the secret service. Set up with earphones like any good security officers, their mandate is to serve and protect No. 10, the franchise player of the Florida Panthers. Team success hinges on their ability to shield their meal ticket from the ever-looming danger that lurks around him.
Question is, from what -- or whom -- are they protecting him? Maybe Bure needs security to keep him from the Russian mafia, with whom he allegedly has been associated. Maybe he requires protection in case a disgruntled Vancouver Canucks fan, perhaps still bitter that Bure was traded away, wants to get even. Or, maybe he is just looking for bodyguards to keep those pesky autograph seekers away. The answer?
None of the above. Bure simply is taking part in a photo shoot for a local newspaper. The three secret service agents are none other than Lance Pitlick, Peter Worrell and Paul Laus -- Bure's teammates with the Panthers. The scene was staged, but message was real: Bure must be protected at all costs. The Panthers will go only as far as Bure and his healing right knee will take them, and it will be up to players such as Pitlick, Worrell and Laus to ensure there are no liberties taken on him out on the ice. Ask Bure about the photo, and he laughs.
"That's exactly what this is all about," Bure said. "It's a team game. No one player can win games on his own. "I just love it here. It's beautiful. This organization is amazing. Everyone wants to be here. "I'm having so much fun. I guess the older you get, the more fun you have." Bure seems much more relaxed than he was in his early days with the Canucks. Indeed, there was a time when he likely would have snapped when confronted with an old controversy that resurfaced last week.
When the CBC's Fifth Estate last Wednesday aired an hour- long expose on the links between certain Soviet-born NHL players and the Russian Mafia, Bure once again found himself in a spotlight he would much rather have avoided. In the investigative report, Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer, said the league is monitoring Bure's relationship with Russian businessman Anzor Kikalishvili, who has been barred from entering the United States because of alleged criminal ties.
While Daley said the NHL is concerned with the Bure-Kikalishvili friendship, Bure claims he never has been contacted by the league, much less been asked to discontinue the relationship. Pals since they were kids, the two men are pictured together in advertisements for a company called 21st Century that are plastered around Moscow. Bure even took time out to joke about the affair. When reporters approached Bure several days ago to ask about some of his, uh, friends back home, Bure surprisingly unleashed a wry smile before saying "Oh, you mean the Mafia." Once the chuckles had subsided, Bure became more serious. "They can be concerned, but there is no reason to be," Bure said. "This is getting old.
There is nothing to say. They just keep writing it over and over. I was really mad when it happened in 1995 and '96. It's the same thing now." Bure's relationship with Kikalishvili has been public knowledge for several years. In fact, Bure called Kikalishvili his best friend during a recent interview with the Miami Herald. "What really matters in life is how people have treated you," Bure told the Herald. "Even if he was doing something bad, I think he would be my best friend because of what he is like as a person. He doesn't do anything wrong in his life. He does only good things for people. And people just say a lot of bull about him."
The NHL wasted little time reacting to the Fifth Estate report, issuing a release from Daly which stated the program "attempts to sensationalize old allegations which were first raised as early as 1996. "Even though many of these allegations originated as early as 1996 and have been the subject of numerous investigations, not a single NHL player has ever been arrested or indicted, or had their visa privileges revoked in Canada or in the U.S., on charges stemming from or relating to an involvement in or association with organized crime," the statement said. Despite the league's words, Bure almost assuredly will be grilled about the subject by the Toronto media when the Panthers face the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.
Bure's relationship with Kikalishvili hasn't changed since the story first came out. But his hockey life certainly has. Consider that some believed Bure never fully would recover from the two knee surgeries he underwent last March. Obviously, they underestimated the Russian Rocket. It wasn't so long ago that Bure had grown unhappy in Vancouver, where he had scored 51 goals during the 1997-98 season. His decision to hold out at the beginning of last season did little to speed up his trade demands as the Canucks simply let him sit. More than three months into the season, Bure finally got his wish. On Jan. 17, he was traded to Florida, along with defencemen Brett Hedican, Brad Ference and a draft choice for forwards Dave Gagne and Mike Brown, defenceman Ed Jovanovski, goalie Kevin Weekes and a draft pick. Left behind in Vancouver were reports that Bure was fed up being in the spotlight of such a hockey-mad city.
"A lot of stuff was written about me that wasn't true," Bure said. "I got used to it. But if people write lies, it's just not right. "I had a great time in Vancouver. The fans were great to me, even when I was in a slump. Some people tried to put me against the fans, which was ridiculous." Bure was an instant celebrity in south Florida. He was the much-needed superstar of a franchise thirsting for a marquee player that could help fill the seats in the new National Car Rental Center. And 13 goals in his first 11 games as a Panther only fuelled the excitement. His impact off the ice was just as noticeable. Panthers souvenir outlets at the National Car Rental Center sold 25 authentic No. 10 jerseys, 211 replica jerseys and 416 Bure t-shirts by the end of the season, most of those sales coming during the five home games that Bure played in. Unfortunately, the clock struck midnight on this Cinderella story during a March 3 game against Colorado. After scoring a natural hat trick, Bure was forced to leave the game with a right knee injury that would sideline him for the remainder of the season. After undergoing arthroscopic surgery on March 5, Bure went under the knife again 24 days later to repair his anterior cruciate ligament.
Some doubted he would ever be the same player. Not Bure. "Was I scared? No, I don't think so," Bure said. "I know what kind of player I am. Instead of crying about how unlucky I was, I set my mind toward returning. "Obviously, it was a disappointment for me, but you can't do anything about injuries. The best example of that was Trevor Linden. He went seven or eight years without even being hurt, then he seemed to get a bunch of injuries." Bure completed his comeback eight days ago when he scored early in Florida's 4-3 season-opening victory over the Washington Capitals. Not bad for a guy playing his first game in seven months. Bure, however, was brought back to reality that same night when he saw Dallas forward Mike Modano crumple into the boards after receiving a cheap shot from Anaheim's Ruslan Salei.
"When you see Modano, well, he could have died," Bure said. "For a moment, I thought he did die. He's really lucky. It could have been much worse. "It shows you that every time you go out there, you risk being injured. The guys are so big and fast now. When you have 230-pound guys slamming into you, your body can't accept it. "You think about those things when you talk. But when I'm on the ice you don't think about being hit. I'm just trying to win." Florida coach Terry Murray is well aware that opposing teams will be targeting Bure.
That's why he has solicited the likes of Pitlick, Worrell and Laus to
protect him, although Worrell is out with a knee injury. "We know he'll
be played close, but we're not about to accept cheap shots," Murray said.
"We know what he means to us. It's no different than Mats Sundin in Toronto.
Sundin is a superstar who helps fill Toronto's building. We have a new
building, too, and without Pavel it would be a tough sell." If that isn't
reason enough to protect Pavel Bure, what is?
Страничка Павла Буре на сайте "Звёзды
11 декабря. Павел Буре - "Даже Оджик не спас меня
от беды" - Спорт-Экспресс.
11 декабря. Павел Буре - "Даже Оджик не спас меня от беды" - Спорт-Экспресс.