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марта 2002 года.
He may be small, but Sergei Samsonov is coming up big - Boston Herald
by Steve Conroy
Mike O'Connell had a hunch he was onto something special the night before the 1997 draft when he conducted his face-to-face meeting with an 18-year-old Sergei Samsonov.
With the Bruins in possession of the No. 1 and 8 picks in the first
round that year, O'Connell, then the B's assistant general manager, joined
the Bruins scouting department in sitting down with the top 15 or so players
in the draft. Samsonov was the last to meet them.
``Sergei was just so business-like, so sure, but in a Sergei kind of way -- very unassuming,'' recalled O'Connell.
The Bruins, who would take the consensus jewel of the draft in Joe Thornton with the first pick, decided that Samsonov was not ONLY the player they wanted with the eighth choice, he was the ONLY player that they wanted at that spot. If Samsonov wasn't available, they were working on deals to move down in the draft.
But when the Calgary Flames decided to take Daniel Tkaczuk with the sixth pick and the Tampa Bay Lightning took Paul Mara with the seventh selection, the Bruins delightedly landed Samsonov. And just as the player had instilled confidence in O'Connell the night before, Samsonov's father would further cement that good feeling.
``I remember his parents (Viktor and Tatiana) were just beaming they were so proud,'' said O'Connell. ``They had an interpreter there and (Viktor) shook my and said in what sounded to me like very clear, strong Russian, `Sergei will be very confident, he will work hard and he will always be a good Bruin.' And he was just so convincing. You hear a lot of parents talk about their children with pride, but not with that kind of passion.
``And you know what? He wasn't (kidding) me.''
No, he wasn't. Now in his fifth year in the National Hockey League, Viktor Samsonov's son, is continuing to make his climb up the ladder to NHL stardom. Going into this weekend's games at Florida and Tampa Bay, he is tied with Thornton in points for the Bruins with 26-36-62 totals in 63 games.
And he's doing it with an on-ice panache that belies a quiet personality and a rugged work ethic that sparks his always-churning engine.
Bitten by the bug
By Sergei Samsonov's account, his relationship with hockey was a love-at-first-sight affair. Ever since Viktor took his 5-year-old boy to an outdoor skating rink back home in Moscow, there was never any question as to the object of young Samsonov's desire.
Sergei asked to go again the next day, then again and again -- and eventually a youth hockey career had begun. Growing up in Russia in the 1980s, young Samsonov came to idolize the famed KLM line of the Red Army team -- Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov -- and admire how they subjugated their individual talents for the betterment of the unit.
As a youth, he worked intensely on the things that are now the hallmarks
of his professional game -- skating and stickhandling.
In the winter of 1994-95, Samsonov played for the Red Army junior team, but it didn't take long before he proved that he didn't belong at that low level. After scoring 110 goals in 50 games that year, he was elevated to the elite team for the rest of the season.
But after another season with Red Army, and growing talk that his team might drop down a division, Samsonov decided to leave his family and homeland as a 17-year-old kid to play among men with the Detroit Vipers of the now defunct International Hockey League.
``It was my decision,'' said Samsonov. ``I had talked for a long time with my parents. First they wanted me to go, then they didn't, so they finally pretty much told me to do whatever I wanted to do. It was a little different situation back in Russia at the time. Obviously, I wanted to play in North America. To play in the NHL was my dream. I figured it was the good way to go. Come play here (in the minors) for a year, show youself to the scouts and see what happens. It was a tough decision, but in the end, it worked out well.''
It couldn't have worked out much better for Samsonov on or off the ice. He was named IHL Rookie of the Year and the Vipers won the league title. And perhaps just as importantly, Samsonov had a full immersion into the American lifestyle. He had learned the basics of English from school, but it's one thing to read a passage in a classroom setting, another to go grocery shopping in a foreign land. During that year, he got acclimated with everyday American life. And it was also in Detroit that Samsonov met his fiance, Meghan. He even fell prey to the American pro athlete's well-known vice -- golf.
``I pretty much got hooked on it,'' Samsonov said with a smile.
The perfect pair
As a member of the fertile Class of '97, Samsonov came into the NHL and onto the Bruins as half of the Dynamic Duo. He was, and still is, linked in many ways to Thornton -- the big, affable kid from St. Thomas, Ontario. In fact, when the two players' contracts were set to expire before last season, O'Connell was able to break the logjam by negotiating the same deal for each player.
But in that first year, thanks in part to his IHL baptism to North American
pro hockey, Samsonov's game was more mature than Thornton's. It showed
from Day One in training camp when, on his first shift, Samsonov beat none
other than Ray Bourque and scored a goal.
While there may have been a bit of a friendly competition between the
two, Samsonov said he was grateful to have the big guy around.
Thornton was equally appreciative of Samsonov's presence that year.
And the two seem to enjoy each other off the ice as well now. As quiet and introspective as Samsonov may be, Thornton's gregarious personality provides the perfect counterbalance. Thornton knows how to break through Samsonov's almost studious demeanor.
``He likes his clothes,'' said Thornton with an impish grin, ``so if you want to get on him, get on him about his suits. Then he'll give it back to you a little bit.''
Away from hockey, Samsonov may have melded well into American society, but that doesn't mean he doesn't miss Russia every now and then. He remains close to his parents, who come over occasionally for long visits. And his younger brother, Yuri, attends Governor Dummer in Byfield.
``It's hard sometimes not having your family around,'' said Samasonov. ``Having (Yuri) here and being able to speak Russian once in a while is nice.''
Finding another gear
Though he came to the NHL as a ready-made player, there were adjustments to be made. There was the issue of defense, which every young player goes through. And he was still adjusting to the North American game. On the bigger ice surface in Europe, he would have an easier time weaving around three guys and getting to the net. Here, there were many instances in the early going where might try the impossible and fall just maddeningly short. Now, he'll try the merely improbable and succeed.
``I think now I'm playing more percentage hockey, I guess,'' said Samsonov. ``I know now that certain plays I can try and certain plays just won't work.''
While he's been an effective player every year he's been in Boston,
last season was a breakout year for Samsonov. Despite the turmoil of Burns'
firing and the hiring of Mike Keenan as head coach, Samsonov flourished,
notching career highs in goals (29), assists (46) and points (75), and
he's continuing his progress under Robbie Ftorek this year.
He consistently produces plays that leave NHL veterans in disbelief. There was the goal the he scored from between his legs in Philadelphia back in November. And there was the game-winner just two weeks ago against the Calgary Flames, when he pounced on a loose puck, shifted into a gear that few players have and scored top-shelf.
``I looked at the replay on that one and he left three guys diving at him,'' said linemate Glen Murray. ``He can make guys look a little silly out there.''
Despite what seems like an unpredictable repertoire of dekes, Samsonov's been a boon to his linemates. Thornton played some of his best hockey when paired with Samsonov late last season and earlier this year. And since being teamed with Samsonov and Jozef Stumpel, Murray has elevated his game to the point where he's enjoying his first 30-goal season.
``A lot of people said that it may be a little difficult, but I found it easy for me because I just get out of the way, he takes the puck and he finds me,'' said Murray. ``It's been a lot of fun playing wth him. If you can find the holes, he'll get it to you somehow. And he draws so much attention that the holes are easier to find.''
His 5-foot-8, 180-pound frame has not held him back. In fact, he seems to use it more and more as an advantage, using his speed and quickness to get around, under and through bigger players.
``I was told since I was 5 years old that I was small and I wasn't big enough to play on the higher levels. After a while, you just stop listening to that,'' he said.
With 10 regular season games left, Samsonov still has a chance to notch his first 30-goal season. But he is not overly concerned with his numbers. The Bruins are winning again and, after two joyless springs, Samsonov's mind is focused on the playoffs. When it comes to his own play, Samsonov says, very simply, that he just wants to get better.
``It's just the nature of hockey to want to do your best every shift, every game, every year,'' said Samsonov.
And while Samsonov can produce jaw-dropping feats, it's that promise of a lunchpail mentality that piqued O'Connell's interest back in June of '97. And the payoff to the promise still impresses him to this day.
``The great players have that in them, that special quality that makes
them work hard every game,'' said O'Connell. ``Ray Bourque had that. And
so does Sergei. He's just got it in him. He's got IT.''
Страничка Сергея Самсонова на
сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
30 сентября. Samsonov spinning his wheels // Boston
20 апреля. Сергей
Самсонов: "Fair play в НХЛ нет" - Спорт-Экспресс
Сергей Самсонов: "С Кинэном пил пиво, с Бернсом лил
слёзы" - "Спорт-Экспресс"
30 сентября. Samsonov spinning his wheels // Boston Globe
20 апреля. Сергей Самсонов: "Fair play в НХЛ нет" - Спорт-Экспресс
Сергей Самсонов: "С Кинэном пил пиво, с Бернсом лил слёзы" - "Спорт-Экспресс"