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сентября 1999 года.
Pavel Bure - perfect fit for South Florida
Right wing Pavel Bure, the ``Russian Rocket,'' is the first Panther who fits South Florida like an old pair of Bauer hockey gloves.
He is 28 years old and keeps homes in Moscow, Vancouver and, now, Fort Lauderdale. This season he starts on a five-year, $47.5 million deal that allows him to replace his silver Ferrari and his black Mercedes out of pocket change.
In an ostentatious locale where a Great Hockey Unwashed still resides, no other player so perfectly reduces the game to its simplest form: a fast guy scoring goals with spectacular dexterity that's rarely subtle.
He arrived here in January, the ultimate transplant. And in 11 games, he scored 13 goals, three on breakaways. Another on a penalty shot.
Here is the superstar by whom the Panthers can be identified, locally and internationally.
But Bure also brings, some say, more superstar baggage than the Concorde leaving Paris. His mercurialness on the ice also extends off it. Rumor and innuendo abound, from his alleged Russian Mafia connections to his popularity in Vancouver's gay community.
He talks about both. Anzor Kikalischvili, allegedly a Russian mob figure, is his friend. ``He doesn't do anything wrong in his life,'' Bure said. ``He does only good things for people. And people just say a lot of bull---- about him.''
The adoration by the gay community in Vancouver could be duplicated in South Beach, where the gay community drives the economy and a superhip scene that draws celebrities from around the world.
``What do you want me to do?'' said Bure, with an embarrassed laugh. ``I can tell you that I'm not gay, that I can tell you.''
He has made it to South Beach, where he is not yet recognized instantly, often enough to offer an opinion: ``The Forge is great. The Living Room is brutal.''
With his dramatic facial features -- alabaster skin, blue eyes, lush lips -- and raw athletic talent, Bure (pronounced bur-AY) obviously didn't get shortchanged biologically.
Pavel Bure, right, has made it to South Beach, where he is not yet recognized instantly, often enough to offer an opinion: 'The Forge is great. The Living Room is brutal.' Vladimir and Tanya Bure's oldest son was born on March 31, 1971 in Moscow. Pavel's brother, Valeri, now Calgary's right wing, was born June 13, 1974.
Pavel's earliest encounter with sports came with water, both solid and liquid. He almost followed his father into the pool. Vladimir won four swimming medals -- one silver and three bronze during the 1968 and 1972 Olympics.
Vladimir wasn't exactly patient with Pavel's efforts on the ice. The kid was a weak skater -- at age six.
``My father told me, `OK, in three or four months, you've got to be one of the best on the team. Otherwise, you're not going to play hockey,' '' Pavel remembered.
By age 10, he sometimes played hooky from school to play hockey in front of his home on Kronstodsky Boulevard. His idol: Soviet National team left wing Valery Kharlamov, revered in Canada today almost as much as in Russia -- 25 years after his prime.
Kharlamov and Bure have similar characteristics: small (5-9), powerful legs, tremendous acceleration and breathtaking stickhandling ability that made them electrifying one-on-one players.
``I don't remember how he played because I was so young,'' Bure said. ``I heard stories, and I had seen him a couple of times [on tape]. He could beat the whole team by himself and score a goal.''
Kharlamov died in an auto accident in 1981, a time of uncertainity for Pavel. Between school and practice, he was spending more time with swimmers than hockey players. He figured he would stay with swimming.
``I was a pretty good swimmer, but my family, not forced, but gave me strong advice that I better go toward hockey,'' Bure said. ``I wasn't sure what I wanted to do.''
Hockey won out. Fewer practices, more games.
Like most great players, Bure works hard in practice. But even today, when school's out, so is he. He's often the first off the ice and first into in his Mercedes. Sometimes defenseman Robert Svehla, the next quickest departer on the Panthers, is just finishing his shower.
As a teenager in the early and mid-1980s, Bure's goal was to make the fabled Central Red Army team. He made the junior team by age 15. And just before he turned 17, in early 1988, Red Army gave him a shot.
``First of all, they didn't want to bring me up [from junior],'' Bure said. ``They said, `We'll wait another year because he's too small. He's going to get killed. He's only 16 years old. He's too small, too skinny.'
``I started to just hit everybody, all those older players. I was hitting them, slashing them, crosschecking them, because they said, `You can play, but you're too small.' I had to prove I could survive.
``After I started to score goals, they said, `OK, OK, you've proven you can play tough, but, now, please score some goals. That's why we got you here, not just to run around.' ''
Bure scored the first time he touched the puck with the big team, a two-on-one goal against Dynamo Riga (Latvia).
``I got a pass with an empty net,'' Bure said.
``He was kind of a flashy guy, skating well and handling the puck so well,'' said Detroit's Igor Larionov, Bure's mentor and the center of Red Army's great KLM Line. ``He was kind of immature, but, all the same, he was making those big plays at 16 around the big guys.''
In his first full season in the Soviet Elite League, 1988-89, Bure was rookie of the year.
STYLE ON DEFENSE: When the puck is in the defensive zone, Bure, left, hangs out between the top of the circle and the blue line. Any defensive involvement is done quickly, as if he wants to lose as little takeoff time as possible. During the 1989 world junior championships, a line of future first and second-team NHL All-Stars -- Alexander Mogilny, Sergei Fedorov and Bure -- made a mockery of the tournament. The Soviets won the gold, and Bure was named Top Forward with eight goals and six assists in seven games.
In the 1989 NFL draft, Vancouver took Bure in the sixth round, and appropriately enough, that's when the first Bure controversy unfolded. He lasted until the sixth round because several NHL general managers figured he hadn't played the requisite number of games to be eligible as a European 18-year-old. They formally challenged his draft eligibility.
In May, 1990 the NHL ruled Vancouver's pick was invalid. But Vancouver conveniently discovered scoresheets that showed Bure had played enough games, and the NHL reversed its decision. The Canucks had Bure's rights.
When Bure came to the U.S. in 1991, he stayed briefly at agent Ron Salcer's Los Angeles home. That's when he went to Las Vegas to get married, according to Brian Burke, then Vancouver's assistant GM. No one says much about it.
The consensus assumption is that Bure, worried that Vancouver might not win his release from his Red Army contract, wanted a marital link so he wouldn't get yanked back to Russia. Bure won't discuss his marriage, which apparently lasted three weeks, and no one ever identified the woman publicly.
Bure's arrival in the Vancouver Canucks locker room in November 1991 created as much curiosity as excitement. He quickly began to pal around with fellow forward Gino Odjick, a single 21-year-old. There weren't too many young, unmarried players among the mature Canucks.
Odjick was a 6-3, 210-pound native of the Quebec's Maniwaki Indian Reserve who spoke English, French, Algonquin, but no Russian. Bure was a small Russian who didn't speak much English.
``I think he knew three words -- `I love you,' `I need you,' `I want you,' like that Elvis song,'' laughed Odjick. ``We never had a problem communicating, through sign language or whatever.''
Demonstrating their primitive communication, Odjick mimed tipping a cup into his mouth: ``You want something to drink.'' He flapped his elbows out from his sides: ``You want some chicken?''
The two are still close. Odjick named his son after Bure. ``It was my girlfriend's decision, too,'' Odjick said. ``He had his name before he was born.''
Last month, the Odjick family showed up to watch Bure in Hull, Quebec in a Panthers training camp intrasquad game. Along came Bure Odjick, age 22 months.
Odjick was one of Bure's few pogo sticks over the language barrier. The only Canucks player Bure had known previously was Larionov, whom Bure revered. They were Central Red Army teammates in 1988.
Said Geoff Courtnall, a Vancouver left wing at the time, ``Pavel was trying to learn English, trying to understand and play at the same time. That first year, he was really tired, too. He was playing at another level and we play so many games [twice as many as the Soviet League], that he was just beat. So he would just go home and sleep. He didn't have a lot of time to study the language.''
He did what many Europeans do -- he watched television. One of the shows he watched was Full House, which starred Candace Cameron. Today, Bure sees Cameron as family. She married his brother.
Eventually, Bure's sense of humor, an entity reserved for friends, emerged. His wit ranges from sharp to smart aleck. It's the practical joke at which he's supposedly more adept.
One April Fool's Day, just after his father had come over from Russia, Pavel sent him to a Shell station with several coupons. Pavel told his father, whose English was limited, that the coupons would allow him to fill his tank for free.
Not surprisingly, Vladimir soon found himself arguing with the gas-station attendant. ``Free gas! Free gas!'' he pleaded. About 20 minutes later, Pavel showed up and settled everything after telling his father, ``April Fool.''
In his first season at Vancouver, Bure scored 34 goals and was named Rookie of the Year. And although he got 60 goals in each of the next two regular seasons, he went into the 1994 playoffs dealing with a common prejudice: Europeans, who grow up playing a less physical style on a 15-foot wider international rink, are unfit for playoff pressure.
No other playoff grind in sports is as long as the two-month run to the Stanley Cup Final. Even blowouts are hard, pounding affairs. Will, more than skill, is often the pivotal factor. By the end, fatigue cloaks bodies barely holding themselves together.
The popular view was that Europeans lacked the desire for a Stanley Cup that inspires men to play even with broken bones. A little contact and they'd check out the airline schedule for the next flight home.
No Russian had ever had his name on the Stanley Cup. Montreal won the 1993 Stanley Cup without any Europeans. Even though Bure scored five goals in 12 playoff games that year, Los Angeles knocked off Vancouver.
``Everybody said he just played on the outside and he wouldn't get involved,'' Courtnall said.
In the 1994 playoffs, Vancouver fell behind Calgary, 3-1, in the first round. The Canadian media, sensitive to the increasing NHL presence of Europeans and Americans, savaged Bure.
Repeated spontaneous combustion ensued.
The first explosion came in double overtime of Game 7 against Calgary. A Jeff Brown pass zipped blueline-to-blueline onto Bure's stick. Calgary's Zarley Zalapski hooked frantically at Bure's waist as Bure rocketed away.
The NHL's top goal-scorer was flying on a breakaway with a playoff series on his stick. The jolt of anticipation in the three seconds Bure had the puck -- and the slip around Calgary goalie Mike Vernon -- gave the goal its place in NHL history.
``You don't really think when you've got breakaways,'' Bure said. ``You just concentrate on where's the puck and what the goalie does. After I scored the goal, I thought, `OK, it's a great goal. I think we just won in overtime of Game 7. This is it!'
``Those kind of feelings you can't really explain. You have to play the game yourself.''
Again and again, sports highlight shows replayed that goal as Bure and Vancouver blazed to the Final past Dallas and Toronto in five games each. Bure would lead all NHL playoff goal scorers with 16.
``He really showed what he was made of in that series and that playoff run,'' Courtnall said. ``Teams were trying to intimidate him and they couldn't. A prime example was Dallas.''
Ah, yes. The Churla Incident, May 6, 1994. Shane Churla's job with Dallas was simple -- inject fear into opposing stars by inflicting pain.
``Churla went down the ice and crosschecked him to the back of the head,'' Courtnall recalled. ``And Pavel came all the way back down to our zone and knocked him out cold with one of the hardest hits of the whole playoff series.''
It was also one of the most blatantly illegal, a flying elbow. In obvious recognition of Bure's superstar status and the victim-avenge-thyself tradition of the playoffs, the NHL merely fined him $500. The usual punishment would have been a multi-game suspension.
``If I want to play tough, I can do it,'' said Bure, who carries 189 pounds on his 5-9 frame. ``It's not my style, but I've proven over the years that I can take some and can give some as well.''
Nonetheless, the Canucks lost a seven-game Final to the Rangers. And as good as Bure was throughout the playoffs, two episodes cost his team dearly, possibly the series.
In Game 3 with a 1-1 tie in the first period, Bure received a high-sticking major and game misconduct. The Rangers scored on the power play and went on to a 5-1 victory.
In Game 4, the Canucks were up, 2-1, when Bure used the same move on a penalty shot that he used on the breakaway goal against Calgary a month earlier. Rangers goalie Mike Richter stoned him. The roused Rangers rode the momentum to a 4-2 victory.
But those pivotal moments weren't exactly in Bure's head as he sat atop the Madison Square Garden boards with teammates, watching the Rangers celebrate the end of a 54-year Cup curse.
``I'm always trying to think positive, so I was like, `OK, we tried our best, we lost, it's really sad . . . but life goes on.' If you lost, you lost. So, get ready for the next game.''
Those playoffs, particularly the conference final against Toronto and the Stanley Cup Final, forced Bure to face a large media assemblage every day. He seemed to regard it as The Blob -- large and forboding, and a required chore to be done as quickly as possible. It isn't much different today.
During his first press conference as a Panther, someone asked if he liked dealing with the media horde.
``Do I have a choice?'' he smiled wearily.
Weeks later, he said, ``You don't really have a choice. I understand people are interested. So, for me, it's no problem.''
Said Courtnall: ``He's a pretty quiet guy. It takes a while for him to loosen up.''
Bure disagrees with the media image of him as a private man.
``If I were private,'' he said as he plopped his feet up in the Panthers' family lounge on a Sunday afternoon, ``I wouldn't be here talking to you for a half an hour [actually 45 minutes], right? I have to do interviews every day, have to go in front of cameras and all. If I were shy, I wouldn't do that. I would say, `I'll only do it once a month.' ''
The biggest flap about media access occurred in Vancouver in 1994. The Canucks' media relations department denied a one-on-one request from Vancouver's gay newspaper, and the newspaper claimed discrimination.
The newspaper's editor unsuccessfully argued that his readers were Canucks fans, too. Just like everybody else in Vancouver.
It may be unfair to label Canuck fans ``psychotic.'' Perhaps ``obsession'' is a more appropriate term for the way Canadian cities follow their NHL teams. Dolphin fanatics in South Florida aren't in the same league, figuratively as well as literally.
Bure's only competition as a local celebrity in Vancouver was the cast of The X-Files, which was filmed there from 1993 to '98. He became a prisoner of love, Vancouver's love. There wasn't anywhere he could go unnoticed.
Vancouver's run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 1994 proved to be the peak of Bure's time there. Even as he signed a new five-year contract during the Final, tensions flared between Bure and the Canucks organization. When rumors surfaced that he had threatened to sit out the the Final unless he received a new contract, the team didn't do enough to dispel them, Bure felt.
Things got worse during the NHL lockout in the fall of 1994. Bure and agent Ron Salcer claimed a unique clause in the new contract: He would get paid anyway, lockout or no lockout. The Canucks disagreed. Bure sued for $1.7 million. Eventually, he settled for $1 million.
Bure's 1995-96 season ended abruptly on Nov. 9 in Chicago when he tore up the right anterior cruciate knee ligament. Rehabilitation still left him less than 100 percent for the 1996-97 season. That ended early, too: Bure missed the last 18 games due to whiplash.
Somewhere along the line, Bure asked for a trade from Vancouver. He has given different circumstances and different dates to different people -- before the 1997-98 season; after the 1995 lockout season and the lawsuit; or as far back as 1993, when the Canucks allegedly waffled about a promised renegotiation, then tried to pay him in Canadian dollars rather than American dollars.
Whenever it was, Bure stayed healthy during the entire 1997-98 season while playing under the trade request. Once again he passed the 50-goal mark with 51, but the Canucks missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
A year ago, Bure figured it was time to force the Canucks to deal with him. He stayed in Moscow and trained with the Red Army team.
In Moscow, then or whenever, Bure moves with the upper crust in the offseason.
``I know the Prime Minister, I know the president,'' Bure says matter-of-factly. ``Sometimes, they would invite people when there are concerts or something and would invite me to have a small dinner with them.''
Said Detroit's Larionov, Pavel ``had a good time in Moscow, I knew that. But, at the same time, he was working out. He's the kind of player, maybe from the old school. You don't have to whip him on the back during the summer.''
Despite the economic tumult that repels some Russian NHL players, Bure feels at ease in his hometown. His family emigrated to Russia from Germany in the 1800s, and were well-known watchmakers.
In Moscow, he sees his mother. His father, Vladimir, still lives in Vancouver. Pavel won't discuss the marital status of his parents.
His brother, Valeri, rarely makes it back to Russia, usually spending offseasons in Southern California with his actress wife. ``He's my best friend, but we don't spend too much time together,'' Pavel said.
Bure's 1998 holdout enhanced his reputation as a high maintenance superstar. It also forced the trade to the Panthers. To the Panthers' support staff, though, Bure is low maintenance -- not just for a superstar, but as a player.
Late the afternoon of Jan. 17, the trade was made. The Panthers sent defenseman Ed Jovanovski, center Dave Gagner, goalie Kevin Weekes, 1997 first-round pick center Mike Brown and a first-round pick in 1999 or 2000 to Vancouver for Bure, defenseman Bret Hedican, defenseman prospect Brad Ference and a third-round pick in 1999 or 2000.
Panthers general manager Bryan Murray, often cast by fans as a villainous village idiot, had grabbed the kind of superstar a franchise rarely possesses. Any baggage he could handle.
Speed thrills. Bure starts with speed, but it's only a start, albeit a fast one. It isn't only for alliteration that he's nicknamed the ``Russian Rocket.''
``His first two or three strides are as good as anybody I've seen in the game,'' Panthers coach Terry Murray said. ``That's where you get those great goals on breakaways that are the difference in the game. Not only does he have great speed, he has the ability to anticipate the play that's going to happen. When you have that combination, there's no one who's going to stop you.''
Bure's style isn't all that different from Wayne Gretzky's when The Great One destroyed the record book for Edmonton in the 1980s. Hockey is a game of transition. Bure is constantly lurking, waiting for the pass or loose puck that propels that transition. Causing the turnover is usually somebody else's job.
When the puck is in the defensive zone, Bure hangs out between the top of the circle and the blue line. Any defensive involvement is done quickly, as if he wants to lose as little takeoff time as possible.
``It looks like he waits, he waits, he waits. And it looks like at times he's on the perimeter,'' said Panther left wing Ray Whitney. ``But if you watch where he scores his goals, they're in the middle of the traffic. He just knows when to get in there.''
``I can't say that I'm so fast, like the fastest skater in the world,'' Bure said. ``There are lots of fast guys. In Russia, player development is totally different. Here, you've got to be big and strong. There, you've got to be fast. I can't say I was even the fastest guy in my age group.''
Officially, the NHL's fastest player is Washington's Peter Bondra, the NHL's leading goal scorer from 1994 to '98. But even Bondra downshifts a tick once the puck is involved. Bure can do everything -- wrist shot, slap shot, shifts, reverses with the puck glued to the stick -- at top speed.
After a nine-month layoff, Bure hit the Panthers scene in warp speed: six goals in three games.
The only thing slow about Bure is the time it takes him to return to the bench at the end of a shift. The desired line shift -- the usual shift -- is 40-50 seconds. The average Bure shift is 50-60 seconds.
It's not uncommon to see his replacement straddling the boards, waiting for Bure to finish one last offensive thrust. Bure's third goal against Philadelphia Jan. 26, a flat-angle sling from the corner off goalie John Vanbiesbrouck's back, came at the end of a 1:22 shift.
The numbers show Bure's impact. When he played for more than half the game in the 10 games after the Jan. 17 trade, the Panthers blew hot, like Dizzy Gillespie's band on ice, averaging 3.5 goals per game.
The NHL's No. 1 offense, Toronto, averaged 3.27 goals per game last season.
In the games Bure missed or played less than half the game, the Panthers just looked dizzy: 2.3 goals per game.
``You get excited when he's in the lineup,'' Whitney said. ``You know if you keep it close or keep it a one-goal game, Pav's going to turn it around for you.''
Bure's season ended prematurely when his ACL ripped again during the 7-5 loss to Colorado on March 1. He's supposed to make it back for the season opener Saturday against Washington.
No matter how long it takes Bure to get back to 100 percent -- a week, a month, two months into the 1999-2000 season -- he's certain to be one of the Panthers' leaders. If he isn't already.
``Pav doesn't have to be a rah-rah guy,'' said Whitney. ``When your best player is working hard, it makes everybody else follow. He works off the ice as hard as anybody. In Hull [at training camp], he was on the bike at night, around 5 p.m., before he would go out for dinner. How can you slack if your best player is working hard?''
For Pavel Bure, work here -- in the Florida sun instead of the Vancouver rain -- is a welcomed change.
``When you wake up at 7 a.m. in the dark and there's rain and snow, you're in a different mood,'' Bure said. ``You don't want to get out of bed. You just stay there.
``It's just nice when you wake up and see the sunshine, the ocean and the beach. There aren't too many places you can do that, especially when you're a professional hockey player. You're in a good mood right away.''
The ultimate transplant has taken root. Now the question is how quickly
he can take off for the Panthers.Copyright 1999 Miami Herald
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.