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Rambler's Top100

5 ноября 2002 года.
Khabibulin takes up Tretiak's torch

By MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

Separated by 180 feet of painted ice, they are nonetheless bound by their connection to one man.

Maple Leafs goalie Ed Belfour and Nikolai Khabibulin of the Tampa Bay Lightning are their team's No. 1 goalies and as such, should be facing each other tonight at the Air Canada Centre.

Belfour wears Vladislav Tretiak's number 20 to honour his greatest teacher. The two met in Chicago, where Belfour broke into the league and Tretiak operated as goalie coach. Belfour has often credited Tretiak's guidance for his success in the NHL.

Khabibulin, 29, wore 20 in Russia. "All the goalies in Russia wore 20," he said, but he was given 35 as a rookie with the Winnipeg Jets. Khabibulin's English wasn't yet developed enough to accommodate any resistance. It's been 35 ever since.

Tretiak retired in 1984 when Khabibulin was only 11.

Still, the Tampa goalie has a clear memory of watching Tretiak star in his last Olympics.

"I remember him. He was the reason I became a goalie," he said.

Belfour, of course, will tell you the same thing.

Both men took winding, unlikely paths to the NHL. Belfour was never drafted by a major junior or NHL team but parlayed a year of NCAA play into a pro contract and a glittering stay with the Blackhawks.

Khabibulin, meanwhile, remembers applying at two high schools in the factory town then known as Sverdlovsk, 1,200 kilometres east of Moscow.

"Can you skate?" the school officials asked Khabibulin.

"Not really," he said.

Khabibulin was directed to a smaller, less prestigious institution. He played defence for two months while waiting for the delivery of a second set of goaltending equipment. When the school that turned him down recruited his school's goalie, Khabibulin was thrust into the No. 1 job.

He has worn it well. Khabibulin came to North America when former Leafs general manager Mike Smith drafted him for the Winnipeg Jets a decade ago. He made the trip to Phoenix along with the rest of the Jets but after three excellent seasons, became embroiled in a contract dispute with the Coyotes.

With Sean Burke on hand, the Coyotes were willing to be swindled and sent Khabibulin to Tampa for a package of players that included former Leaf Mike Johnson.


Out of the game for nearly two seasons, Khabibulin nonetheless commanded a $5 million US per season deal and has thrived as an unheralded but superb goalie.

The wonder of Russian hockey is that while it has supplied a bounty of position players, few goalies have managed the jump to North America.

San Jose Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov is the only other Russian-born goalie in the NHL.

Think about that for a moment. The country that produced Tretiak and so many NHL stars has shuttled far fewer netminders to the bigs than the province of Quebec.

"It's true, there haven't been very many," Khabibulin said, pointing to a lack of coaching.

"When I played in Russia, there really wasn't a coach available. We could stay around a little bit after practice and just screw around but as far as instruction, there really wasn't much," he said.

Khabibulin enjoyed the chance to talk to his idol at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City where Tretiak was on hand to coach the goalies. Are there any similarities between the two?

"Nah," Khabibulin said. "He was much better than me."

Страничка Николая Хабибулина на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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7 октября. Воробьев помог Хабибулину одержать первую победу в составе «Блэкхаукс». 

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2 февраля. Николай Хабибулин: "Думать в воротах - непозволительная роскошь" - Спорт-Экспресс

22 ноября. Афанасенков против Хабибулина // "Спорт-Экспресс"

23 октября. Хабибулин и Каспарайтис - в "Ак Барсе" - "Спорт-Экспресс"


"ЗВЁЗДЫ С ВОСТОКА" @ c 1997 года