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|31 мая 2006 года.
Cup starts with dinner plate //CanWest News Service
Dan Barnes, CanWest News Service
EDMONTON - Igor Ulanov is hungry, and when you think about it, that's really why he formed The Dinner Club.
But his hunger pangs aren't quite like yours and mine. The bigger ones stem from 14 years without so much as a sniff of the Stanley Cup. No other current member of the Edmonton Oilers has been in the National Hockey League as long as their battle-scarred defenceman, who has tasted life in Winnipeg, Washington, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Montreal, New York City, Florida and Edmonton. With just one foray into the second round before this run, it has been all famine, no feast.
Even now, in his third playoff run as an Oiler and eighth overall, his team is in the Stanley Cup final but he isn't playing. Nor is he likely to get onto the ice in anything but street clothes. And you know that's killing him inside. But there is no allowance for self-pity in a dressing room focused on team success.
''Every single player in the room wants to play. They want to be part of winning games. They want to be on the ice all sweaty and banged up and bruised up. You want to bring something to the team,'' he said. ''But you don't want to show up in the dressing room with a sour face if you're not playing. Guys don't want to see that. I don't want to see a guy bitching and complaining.''
So he does the right thing. He shows up with a smile on his mug, skates hard in practice and counsels kids like Brad Winchester on how to have fun even while you're not playing. And he goes a step beyond, to form The Dinner Club.
''There's quite a few guys, they're on their own in hotels. It's always nice to have teammates beside you,'' he said, explaining his motivation. ''It's usually guys who are off the ice, or injured, guys who just got called up. It's rotating but mostly Italian places. It's the pasta, the carbs. It's very comfortable food.''
While the special guests change, club regulars include Raffi Torres, Sergei Samsonov, Jarret Stoll, Dwayne Roloson, Todd Harvey and Ulanov, of course. Dressing room attendant Joe Moss also put in a celebrated appearance.
While it is a moveable feast, quite often club members break bread at a bistro on the south side.
''It's eight or 10 guys usually but it's like feeding 22, you know. It's amazing how much they eat,'' laughed owner Lino Rago, who is thrilled that his restaurant has become a favourite of The Dinner Club tour.
''That's a good thing. It's a good feeling, not because of who they are, which is irrelevant. They're just all-around great guys. They like to enjoy their dinner and relax and it's such a nice environment for them. People definitely know who they are but I think people tend to leave them alone. It's out of respect. They're having dinner.''
It may look like they're focused on chicken parmigiana, but this is about chemistry and bonding too. On the list of little things that make a team better, this is a big one. It fosters that tight-knit dressing room atmosphere that Edmonton has always boasted. Veteran players who spend dinner time with their families appreciate Ulanov's contribution.
''He's done a good job, like a lot of guys have in the past, of uniting guys and keeping guys as close as we are,'' said Ethan Moreau. ''The Dinner Club is a great idea. It's most important for guys who have just come to our team. When you're doing it every night it's pretty valuable. It's taken on a life of its own. It's gotten pretty big in numbers.''
So has Ulanov, of course. At 36 he's the oldest Oiler and the clock is making noise, as if to reinforce the knowledge that this is all about the timing. Montreal won the cup 15 years before Ulanov became a Hab. He joined the Rangers in 2001, seven years after their parade. Washington got to the final, three years after he left. Tampa Bay won the cup in 2004, six years after he was gone. Florida went to the final, six years before he became a Panther.
''It's all timing, being in the right place at the right time,'' he said.
This is it for him. This is the right place. This is the right time. And whatever he can do to help, he'll do. If that means making reservations, he has no reservations about doing it.
''He's a huge part of this team,'' said Georges Laraque. ''His personality is an asset. The Dinner Club is all about bonding. That's huge. At this time of year it's one of the most important things we do. It makes people go to the wall for the next guy.
''Everybody sees how he practises hard. He's a warrior. And even if he doesn't play a game in the playoffs, if we win the Cup he should be the first guy (after captain Jason Smith) to lift it,'' said Laraque.
And to take a drink from it too. He'll need something to wash down that chicken parm.
Страничка Игоря Уланова на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
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