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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians, Europeans Fight for Respect in NHL

NEW YORK -- He noticed the large silver cup on display at Grand Central Station in New York while there in January for the All-Star Game. What really caught Pavel Bure's attention about the Stanley Cup was all the names engraved on it. "History," he says, eyes as big as a kid's on Christmas Day. "I didn't know so many players, so many teams have won the Stanley Cup." The fascination with the many names on the cup naturally led Bure to ask, "Are there any Russian names?" The answer was "nyet." Bure wants to be the first. He said it in January, and he will settle for nothing less than having his name engraved on the fabled cup. He is three victories away, as his Vancouver Canucks are tied 1-1 with the New York Rangers. What Bure's performance to this point has done is bash all those who bash European players, saying they are not dedicated enough to give that extra effort in the playoffs because they did not grow up wanting to put their names on the Stanley Cup. Bure can be excused for not knowing the history of the Stanley Cup. It was just three years ago that he was being urged to sign a three-year contract with the Soviet Central Red Army -- for a handful of rubles, room and board. The contract extension Bure signs this summer will be worth more than $3 million per season. "The Red Army gave me no choice -- sign or else," Bure says. "I wanted better -- for me and my family." Bure, his father, Vladimir, and brother, Valery -- a second-round draft choice of the Canadiens in '92 who is expected to play in Montreal next season -- left their homeland and wound up in Vancouver unannounced. Since that day, Bure has helped make the Canucks look good, even if they continue to wear those god-awful uniforms. Bure has been just as elusive to NHL teams, getting 154 goals over the last three seasons -- including 60 goals in each of the past two. He can become the first player to lead the National Hockey League in goals during the regular season and playoffs since the New York Islanders' Mike Bossy in 1982. "Once I had a dream of winning the gold medal, but times change, dreams change," Bure says. "The Stanley Cup is better than a gold medal." One day after his team was eliminated by the Maple Leafs in the division finals last spring, St. Louis Blues coach Bob Berry used a radio interview to answer criticism that the Blues would be better if they used Russian forwards Igor Korolev, Vitaly Prokhorov and Vitaly Karamnov. "You have to be mentally tough to win in the playoffs, you have to play with grit and determination," Berry says. "I would like to know, where are Teemu Selanne and the Winnipeg Jets? Where are Alexander Mogilny and the Buffalo Sabres? And where are Pavel Bure and the Vancouver Canucks? "There's a reason why that kind of player doesn't excel in the playoffs. They don't pay the price in the battles you face in the playoffs." What Berry forgot was that Nikolai Borschevsky had one goal and three assists for the Maple Leafs against the Blues, and Dmitry Mironov played the point on the power play in four of those games. They did OK. Berry also forgot that Russian defenseman Vladimir Malakhov, Latvian defenseman Darius Kasparaitis and Czechoslovakian left wing David Volek made a huge contribution to the Islanders' push to the final four. And he also forgot that Jari Kurri and Tomas Sandstrom from Finland and Alexei Zhitnik from the Ukraine helped the Kings make it to the finals against the Canadiens. What is even more pertinent is that Europeans dotted the roster of each team in the playoffs this year. From Arturs Irbe, Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov, Ulf Dahlen, Sandis Ozolinsh, Vlastimil Kroupa and Johan Garpenlov, who led the Cinderella surge of the San Jose Sharks, to Bure and Finland's Jyrki Lumme of the Canucks, to Bobby Holik, Valery Zelepukin, Tommy Albelin and Vyacheslav Fetisov of the New Jersey Devils, to Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Nemchinov, Esa Tikkanen, Sergei Zubov and Alexander Karpovtsev of the Rangers and Borschevsky and Mironov of the Maple Leafs. "I think a lot of Russian players, in particular, don't get the kind of respect they deserve," Quinn says. "It's the redneck attitude still in the league." The Detroit Red Wings' Sergei Fedorov has already been named NHL Player of the Year, and he could become the first Russian to be named NHL Most Valuable Player. Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek is a finalist for MVP and the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goalie. Stan Mikita won the MVP, but no Czech or Slovak has ever won the Vezina. The Ottawa Senators' Alexei Yashin is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, honoring the league's top rookie. And Bure could win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. Washington Capitals general manager David Poile criticized his Europeans last year for not giving the extra effort some of the North Americans did in the playoffs and wrote it off as an opportunity to educate Michal Pivonka, Peter Bondra and Dimitri Khristich on the finer points of the Stanley Cup. Poile was not about to bash them, however. "I remember when I was with the Atlanta Flames, and we signed Jim Craig after the 1980 Olympic Games," Poile says. "We brought Craig around and introduced him to the players. Pat Riggin, one of our goaltenders, wouldn't even shake his hand. He said he didn't want to shake his hand because Americans were taking away Canadian jobs." "That wasn't the case at all and it isn't the case with the European players." Bure is a player who took a few minutes in January to learn about the Stanley Cup. Now, he wants to be a part of that history and the many names that are engraved on the fabled cup.