The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/01/13 at 01:20 PM ET
Before he was the catalyst behind the San Jose Sharks' mid-90's successes, and before he was "The Professor" in Detroit, the "brain" of the Red Wings' "Russian Five," Igor Larionov broke into the league as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.
As Bure's #10 will be raised to the rafters prior to tomorrow's Canucks-Maple Leafs game, Larionov, who's currently a player agent based in Metro Detroit, spoke with the Vancouver Province's Jim Jamieson about Bure's struggles in terms of acclimating to living in North America and playing in the NHL:
“To be honest with you, he was troubled for a while,” Bure’s all-too-brief linemate and Russian countryman Igor Larionov said over the phone from his home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. He was actually worried (to start the season) because he didn’t score any goals. He was worried they were going to send him down to the minors.”
Laughable as that sounds, Russian players coming to North America in 1991 didn’t make the seamless transition they do now. The Soviet Union was about to break apart, but they’d all grown up within its tight structure.
“When you are 20 years old and you come to North America, and it’s the first wave of Russian players, myself and a couple other guys coming over in 1989, and Pavel was this baby-face,” said Larionov, 52. To deal with a new lifestyle, new hockey in the NHL, it’s overwhelming for a young guy to come and to do well.”
Larionov, who had been a teammate of Bure’s for one season on the Central Red Army team, became the youngster’s mentor and hosted him in his North Vancouver home for the first few weeks.
“I told Pavel, ‘don’t worry, take your time,’ said Larionov. “It’s a game of patience. Just read the play and the people around you. Not long after that, Pat (then GM and coach Quinn) put him with myself and Greg Adams and we started to get the chemistry. From that point, the game was so easy when you play it right.”
Bure actually scored three goals in those next two games, but — though he was a human highlight reel — still had just seven goals in his first 30 games. But the Russian Rocket put it into high gear following the NHL All-Star break in mid-January, scoring 27 goals in his final 35 games en route to overtaking favourite Tony Amonte for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
“After the All-Star game, I think the end of January, I said to him, ‘Pavel you’ve been around for a couple of months, so now you have to calm down and listen,’” recalled Larionov. “I told him it’s a game of skill, patience and commitment. Let me and Greg Adams do some stuff for you that’s special. At that time he was chasing Tony Amonte, who he was behind by many, many points. I said with the right approach to the game, you can catch him and be the top guy for the season.”
Larionov and Jamieson continue, discusisng Larionov's departure from Vancouver and Larionov's estimaion of Bure's Hockey Hall of Fame chances.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.