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Кубок Мира по хоккею 1996 года


August 18, 1996
Russian stars return to roots

By MATTHEW FISHER -- Sun Columnist at Large
MOSCOW -- Memorials to the Soviet hockey aces, Vsevolod Bobrov and Valeri Kharlamov stared down at Russia's best young hockey players the other night.
NHL stars such as former draft dodger Alexander Mogilny and defector Sergei Fedorov came home to provide an evening's entertainment at the Red Army hockey complex.
It was a gloriously sunny evening in the middle of Russia's brief summer. Starved for quality hockey, fans packed the arena on Lenigradski Prospekt to watch their hockey exiles defeat Finland 5-4 in a warm-up match for the World Cup tournament.
It is the first and the last time they'll see their great team in the flesh for another four years. The Bures -- Valeri and Pavel -- as well as Alexei Yashin, Alexei Zhamnov and Vyacheslav Kozlov already are in Sweden today. They'll be in Bavaria tomorrow and in Detroit on Tuesday.
"I'm here because I want to see if what I have heard and read about the quality of our new generation of players is true," said Vladimir Mezin, who had travelled several hours with his brother and nephew from a town in the Russian heartland for the Russia-Finland exhibition.
In the days of Alexander Maltsev, Boris Mikhailov, Alexander Yakushev and Vladislav Tretiak, Mezin said he was a keen fan who would do anything to get a ticket for a game.
"But I don't go much now," the 43-year-old economist said. "There is nothing interesting to see. That's why everyone is so happy tonight."
And they were.
After the game, players gushed about how happy they were to play in Russia again.
"We were excited. The fans were excited. To be back on Russian ice was very special," said Zhamnov, who has been a Winnipeg Jet, Phoenix Coyote and Chicago Blackhawk in the past three months.
"It was so nice to hear people shout, `Rossiya, Rossiya,' and `shaibu, shaibu.' The fans really miss us," said Darius Kasparaitis, a New York Islanders defenceman and a Lithuanian national who opted to take out Russian citizenship in order to play in the World Cup.
Like much else in the former Soviet Union today, its hockey is in a state of crisis.
Not one of Russia's 60 or 70 best play here. Most are in Canada and the U.S. A few can be found working in obscure hockey outposts in western Europe and Japan.
Most of the best 16- and 17-year-old Russians want out, too, even if it means some of the less-skilled exiles end up playing Junior B hockey in Canada or, worse yet, in the German junior leagues.
The latest to bolt is Sergei Samsonov, who is widely tipped to be a top NHL draft pick next June. He lkikely will play in the IHL with the Detroit Vipers this season.
Vladimir Mezin's brother, Fyodor, said Russian youth hockey had begun to slip badly.
"Our young players have no one to learn from," he said. "Our hockey has lost much in its development."
Hockey still thrives in a few dirty industrial cities in the Urals and Siberia where factories underwrite the teams.
But in St. Petersburg and Moscow, what is still Russia's favorite winter sport is losing out badly to discos and casinos.
As was proven two nights ago, the only way to win the Russian hockey public back is to give them good Russian hockey.
Whatever they may wish or dream, not one of the players or spectators at the game Friday believes that will happen.
"It's money. Our boys can't resist it. Nobody can," Vladimir Mezin said.
"We watch the NHL games from time to time on TV. But it is difficult for us to get involved. Most NHL teams only have a couple of Russians. We don't even know where some of these cities are.
"I honestly believe that Russia can beat Canada in the World Cup. But for how much longer?"


Источник - "Toronto Sun"





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