Saturday, February 21, 1998
Bure fuels interest in Olympic classic
And for the Russian team at the Winter Olympics, this is its Game 7, the gold-medal game tonight against the Czech Republic.
Led by Bure's spectacular five-goal performance -- he was doing the ice dance without a partner -- the sometimes reticent, often controversial and usually paradoxical leader propelled the Russians to a 7-4 win over Finland to advance to the championship game.
It is, to steal a phrase from the movie Slap Shot, like old-time hockey. Russia and the Czechs playing in an Olympic final. "I don't remember the games,'' Russian defenceman Boris Mironov said. "I'm too young to remember all the great Russian-Czech games.
"But I read about them in books.''
Yesterday, a book could have been written exclusively on Bure, who turned the semi-final game into his own personal shootout. Instead of ending up like the Canada-Czech game, which was determined by penalty shots, Bure had his own kind of shootout -- scoring three of his goals on pure breakaways and, on the large ice, using speed that is rarely witnessed in National Hockey League buildings.
"Today was something unbelievable,'' said Dimitri Yushkevich, the Maple Leafs defenceman who is playing a strong role for the Russians. "Today was a one-player game. We watched Pavel. He did everything. It was something to see.
"I don't think he can do that against the Czechs. I don't think you can score five goals on Dominik Hasek.''
You can, but it usually takes three or four games to do so. You can if the goaltender at the other end is Jarmo Myllys, who was clearly outmatched by Bure.
"Pavel was unbelievable today but this is an unbelievable feeling for a lot of us,'' said Darius Kasparaitis, the Lithuanian defenceman who somehow is playing for Russia. "It feels great to be in the gold-medal game, to prove that we're still one of the best hockey nations in the world. Before I left for the Olympics, all I kept reading about was how this Russian team is bad, how we will not finish in the top four, how all the hockey players are upset.
"That stuff made all of us mad. It brought us together as a team.''
It's a team led by the unlikely captain, Pavel Bure.
"We knew about Pavel Bure,'' Finnish coach Hannu Aravirta said. "It's not enough to know what the coach knows. You can't win the game with that knowledge. We didn't work on the ice all the time. We made too many mistakes."
The five goals in a game is not the most Bure has scored, just the most since he was 12. Playing for the championship of Moscow as a youngster, he scored nine goals in a game.
"It was easier then,'' he said. Tonight, it may not be so easy. The Russians, who beat the Czechs 2-1 in the round-robin, now have to beat a team that knocked off the U.S. and Canada in back-to-back playoff games.
"We can't sit and think about Dominik Hasek,'' Bure said. "We have to think about what we have to do. We have to play Russian hockey.''