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Valeri Bure

This is Valeri Bure. Once his big brother Pavel was tagged with the nickname "The Russian Rocket," Val's obvious moniker was quick to follow - The Russian Pocket Rocket.

Pavel exploded on to the NHL scene back in 1991, putting some pretty lofty expectations on the younger Val. Pavel he was not, but he was a very creative little player who, when placed in the right situation, was a very good top six forward.

Val spent his main formative years in North America. He fled Russia at the same time as Pavel, but because of his age he spent three seasons playing with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League.

Drafted by Montreal way back in 1992, it was not until the 1995-96 season that he would stick with the Habs. He was used primarily as a third line winger in Montreal, seeing very little specialty team time. This affected his scoring totals severely. He topped 20 goals just once in four seasons with Montreal.

Listed generously at 5'10" and 170lbs, Bure really needed a big power forward on his line do the heavy work and create some space. Bure was strong for his size and was willing to pay the price, but he had to rely on smarts and speed to survive in the NHL. Fortunately for Bure, he was blessed with ample supplies of both.

Val was never as lightning fast as Pavel was, and could never electrify the crowd the same way. But he had excellent first step quickness greatly aided by superb sense of anticipation.

Hockey fans really witnessed that upon Val's arrival in Calgary. In February of 1998 Montreal sent Val and a draft pick to the Flames in exchange for Jonas Hoglund and Zarley Zalapski.

At first it did not seem like a great fit. Brian Sutter was the coach, and he demanded heavy physical play, just like how he played. But Bure won him over with a work ethic that exceeded his nice skills package. He was rewarded with ice time and power play time

Bure put together three good seasons in Calgary, scoring 26, 35, and 27 goals. He was a streaky scorer who could frustrate you when he was not scoring, but when he put it all together he was an upper echelon NHLer. For example, in that 1999-00 season his 35 goals and 75 point paced the Flames by a fair margin.

Yet he never could escape the enormous shadow of his brother. That same season Pavel scored 58 goals, and that was not even his best season. Had Valeri had a different last name, I think people would probably have better appreciated him then and now.

The rebuilding Flames moved Bure to Florida in exchange for Rob Niedermayer at the 2001 draft. It was an exciting time for the Bure family, as the two brothers would be reunited with the Panthers. Pavel was coming off a 59 goal season and Valeri looked to prominently help out the Panthers anemic secondary scoring.

The Bure brothers of course were together just a few months earlier at the 2002 Olympics, where they won a bronze medal. The two also helped Russia win the 1998 silver medal.

Things did not quite work out as planned. Valeri blew out a knee, missing a total of 51 games thanks to two knee surgeries. A pouting Pavel slumped through a poor season before being traded to the New York Rangers late in the season.

The knee injury cost Val 20 games of the 2002-03 season, too. And upon his return a broken wrist cost him 12 more games and hampered him the rest of the season. He scored only 5 goals, and was traded away the trade deadline to St. Louis.

Val's stay in the Gateway City was brief, playing just 11 games with the Blues, including playoffs. The Blues put Bure on the waiver wire during the off-season and, surprise surprise, the Panthers quickly reacquired him.

Bure had one last decent season in him. In 55 games with the Panthers he chipped in with 20 goals and 45 points, respectable numbers for sure. The Panthers traded him away at the trading deadline once again, this time to Dallas. He would play just 18 games with the Stars.

Bure opted to rest his weary body during the 2004-05 lockout. Back surgery in the summer of 2004 all but prevented any attempt to play hockey.

He and wife Candace Cameron, of Full House sitcom fame, enjoyed their life in California with their young family. When the NHL finally returned from the work stoppage, he signed with the Los Angeles Kings, hoping to play with his family nearby. But the injuries were too much. Valeri Bure retired from the game of hockey.

The Bure family has explored several entreprenurial pursuits, most notably Bure Family Wines in California.

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