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|26 июня 2012 года.д .
Former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov to compete in San Jose for first time in two years // Oakland Tribune
Evgeni Nabokov had not been born when Canada and the Soviet Union faced off in their historic 1972 hockey series, but he has long been aware of its significance.
"It was a big event for both sides," said the former Sharks goalie who played in Kazakhstan and Russia before coming to North America.
Wednesday night, Nabokov will help mark the 40th anniversary of that epic eight-game Summit Series when he faces a team of touring Russian players in an exhibition at Sharks Ice.
And that's a little bit historic, too.
Though it's only an exhibition, the game marks the first time Nabokov will be competing in San Jose in the two years since being told he no longer fit in the Sharks' plans.
"I'm not going to lie. It is a little bit different," said Nabokov, who will play in front of fans expected to snap up the 700 available tickets. "It's where I spent most of my time, and it was probably the best hockey I've played so far. It's such a great organization, and it's always going to be in my heart."
Nabokov, who turns 37 next month, said that growing up he had only sketchy knowledge of the intense 1972 Summit Series when Canada discovered it had a highly skilled rival on the international hockey stage.
"But last year, there was a show about it, and I watched that," he said, referring to a special on NBC Sports Network. "I learned probably more from that show."
Only one of the touring Russians, Alexander Yakushev, played on the Soviet team that went 3-1-1 over the first five games, then dropped the final three -- all in Moscow. Yakushev, now 65, was the leading Soviet scorer with seven goals and four assists.
Nabokov said he primarily knows of Yakushev and others on the 1972 roster because of their post-player careers.
"They are still in hockey somehow in Russia. Either they used to coach a team or were presidents of certain teams," said Nabokov, who wears jersey No. 20 to honor Vladislav Tretiak, the goalie on that 1972 team and the current president of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia.
The Russians Legends team is traveling around California in advance of a summer event at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The group's itinerary was expanded to include four exhibitions to raise money for programs such as the Junior Sharks Scholarship Fund.
Curtis Brown, the former Sharks forward who serves as director of hockey development at Sharks Ice, said Nabokov's presence adds to the event.
"The fact he was around and able to make it was huge. And not only from our standpoint, but theirs as well," said Brown, who will play Wednesday night along with Owen Nolan, Kyle McLaren and Dave Malley.
The past two years have been eventful for Nabokov.
A stint in Russia with St. Petersburg of the KHL did not go as planned, personally or professionally.
"I wasn't happy out there, it wasn't fully what I expected. And the family wasn't happy," said Nabokov, adding that his children, now 5 and 8, had trouble adjusting to school there.
So Nabokov attempted to return to the NHL. He wanted to sign with Detroit but first had to clear waivers. He was claimed by the New York Islanders. Rather than report, he sat out the rest of the 2010-11 season, saying later it was simply because his game still needed work -- preparation time he would have gotten in Detroit, but probably not with the Islanders.
The Islanders, however, kept his rights for 2011-12. Nabokov reported to camp and began the season as one of three goaltenders. Eventually, he won the starting job, going 19-18-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. Nabokov signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract extension for next season.
"At the beginning it was a little bit weird with three goalies out there, and everybody wasn't sure what was going to happen," Nabokov said. "But then I started playing a little bit more, and I started feeling myself a little bit again and I felt good."
Nabokov said he and his family enjoyed life on Long Island in their rental home near Manhasset. But they consider San Jose home and returned here for the summer.
At this point, Nabokov said he holds no ill will toward the franchise.
"Let's be honest," he said. "The bottom line is it's a business, and some decisions needed to be made. I had a lot of opportunities to deliver the Cup, and I wasn't able to."
The Islanders did not play in San Jose last season, and when the Sharks visited Nassau Coliseum in late October, Nabokov was nursing an injury. That means the lone meeting between the teams this season -- Nov. 10 at HP Pavilion -- could mark his first game against his old team.
Nabokov insisted he had not looked at the schedule but indicated that would be an even more special night.
"That one is going to be definitely emotional and bring some good memories back. It's going to be great."
For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks.