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Rambler's Top100

26 декабря 2000 года.
Korolev illustrates the best in what we can be // Toronto Sun

Never much cared for Popeye, but I'll give him credit for a wonderful phrase when he said, "I am what I am." 

I always thought that was shorthand for "I am a blend of what I was and what I want to be." Funny, but those of us in the non-cartoon world struggle mightily to get that formula right. 

Christmas and New Year's are our most valued social benchmarks because they mark beginnings, the debut of a new year, a birth in a faraway manger. 

These are fast times. If our gaze is not trained on the present, it is flicking toward the future. So when someone gets the formula right, knows who they are and remembers why, you should pay attention. Igor Korolev is such a man. 

You know Korolev as the right winger on the No. 1 line for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He wears No. 22. 

Korolev is 30 years old and grew up the son of a restaurant manager and a plant worker. He lived in a small city an hour outside of Moscow and despite being drafted into the state hockey system in his early teens, he married his grade-school sweetheart, Vera. 

The Korolevs want their two young daughters to grow up here. And so, last month, Igor and Vera stood in a Toronto courtroom with 94 fellow immigrants and recited an oath of loyalty to Canada. Thirty-four countries, from Albania to the U.S.A., were represented in that oak-panelled room. 

Broadcaster Harry Neale, as he usually does, hit the target when he said the addition of the Korolevs "made Canada a little better place than it was before," but it is on the ice, naturally enough, where Korolev has earned his keep. 

Korolev thrives as the most versatile Maple Leaf. He can play lines one through four as well as all three forward positions. He is capable in the faceoff circle and in his own end. Korolev is welcome on both the penalty-killing and power-play units. 

That kind of versatility would come in handy 14 months hence when Canada's finest hockey players contest the 2002 Olympic tournament in Salt Lake City. 

Yes, Korolev is far from a star, but there are a limited number of NHL players who can do as many things with the uniform efficiency of an Igor Korolev. 

That's why it is not altogether outside the realm of possibility that national team coach and Leafs coach/general manager Pat Quinn, intimately familiar with Korolev's virtues, would want him for Salt Lake City. As a new Canadian, Korolev would be eligible. 

Imagine the symbolism of that move. A Russian-born player representing Canada at the Olympics. How would that play on Coach's Corner? 

"There would be plenty of opposition from people inside hockey," Korolev said. "A lot of old-fashioned people would be angry." 

Korolev doubts it would happen. 

"They would have way too much talent to ask me," he said. 

But even if they did, the answer would be no. 

"It's not that I don't like Canada," Korolev said. "I'm a Canadian citizen, but I was born in Russia." 

There is something about representing your country of birth that sweeps aside considerations about eligibility. When they asked returning superstar Mario Lemieux who he will represent at the Olympics, he saw the question as facile. 

"I would play for Canada," he said. "That's where I was born." 

Igor Korolev puts it about the same way. 

"I am a Canadian living in a Canadian city, but I was born in Russia," he said. "In my heart, and in my head and in my bones, that is what is in me. You can't just forget that." 

It is the holidays and here is my wish for you. May you remember what you are and where you came from. And, like Igor Korolev, may you listen to your heart, your head and your bones. 

Страничка Игоря Королева на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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