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Bure retires, joins Team Russia as GM

Canadian Press

11/1/2005 7:15:11 PM

MOSCOW (CP) - Pavel Bure was named general manager of Russia's Olympic hockey team Tuesday after announcing his retirement as a player.

The Russian Rocket, felled by serious knee injuries, announced his decision at a news conference in Moscow. Alexander Steblin, the head of the Russian Hockey Federation, announced that Bure would assemble the team headed to February's Turin Olympics.

''I can promise you one thing, from now on you won't see such a mess with the national team that you've seen here before,'' Bure told reporters.

''You won't see grouchy players here anymore. Only those who really want to play for Russia will be called into the team.''

The Russians have had a hard time assembling rosters in international play in recent years as current NHLers fought with the old guard in management. Bure's arrival on the scene may help Russia field a stronger team in Turin.

But Canadiens star and Russian team veteran Alexei Kovalev wasn't sure about that when asked for his reaction Tuesday.

''I don't know how it's going to be,'' Kovalev said in Montreal. ''For me it's kind of unusual seeing a young person being general manager of the national team. We'll see what happens. I can't tell anything right now.

''Everybody knew he would retire, for me it doesn't really matter who is the general manager of the team,'' Kovalev added. ''I don't have to deal with him. I'm just a player and he's the general manager.''

While the Russians gained a GM, the game lost a true superstar. Bure, 34, has not played since he injured his right knee in March 2003 while with the New York Rangers. Once one of the game's most gifted goal-scorers, he led the NHL with 59 goals with the Florida Panthers in 2000-01 and 58 goals the season before, also with Florida.

''There comes a time when you have to make a decision and move on,'' Bure said.

He also had back-to-back 60-goal seasons with the Canucks, his first NHL club, in 1992-93 and 1993-94.

''He was electrifying,'' former Canucks teammate Trevor Linden said Tuesday from Vancouver. ''I don't know if I've ever seen or played with a player that's brought people out of their seats like that.

''He was probably the most exciting player I've ever seen, just that explosive speed and that ability to make something happen when you just don't think anything was going on.''

The Canucks drafted Bure 113th overall in the 1989 draft. He immediately paid dividends once in Vancouver, collecting 60 points (34-26) in 65 games in 1991-92, his rookie NHL season. He also led the Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup final where Vancouver lost in seven games to the Rangers.

''He was probably Vancouver's first superstar,'' Linden said. ''That was a big step for this organization. We had never had a player that was as dominant as he was.''

Russian press officer Seva Kukushkin told The Canadian Press that Bure would likely head to North America later this week to scout NHL games and speak with Russian players. Kukushkin said Bure could be on hand Saturday in New York when the Rangers host the New Jersey Devils.

''If you would have asked me about that 10 years ago, I'd probably say I'm not that sure, but there's a lot of people that mature into their role,'' said Panthers forward Martin Gelinas, a teammate of Bure's with the Vancouver Canucks.

''Good for him. He's been playing the game long enough that he has the knowledge of the game and he's pretty proud of his country so I'm sure he'll do a good job.''

Bure also helped Russia win Olympic silver at the 1998 Nagano Games. He scored an Olympic record five goals in a 7-4 semifinal victory over Finland. He also collected a bronze medal with Russia in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

''When I played I only strived to be the best, to win the gold and that's what I'm planning to achieve here as general manager,'' Bure said.

That message struck a chord with Finnish centre Olli Jokinen, Bure's former teammate with the Panthers.

''For a lot of guys, once Pavel calls you and asks you to be on the Olympic team, mostly likely the answer will be yes,'' Jokinen said in Montreal. ''He's the kind of guy you respect as a player, so I think they'll have a strong team.'' 

Bure ends his NHL career with 437 goals and 342 assists in 702 career regular-season games. He added 35 goals and 35 assists in 64 playoff games.