Pavel Bure on Sochi, Putin and how the KHL stacks up against the NHL.

The Russian Rocket (pictured left) celebrates a goal with Fetisov, Kasatonov and Mogilny
The friendly game was played to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Summit Series.

Canucks legend Pavel Bure has recently participated in another friendly game. Last time he put the skates on was in November and he was playing alongside with Russia’s prime-minister Vladimir Putin. This time the Russian Rocket played for Team Russia against Team World All-Stars in a game dedicated to the 1972 Summit Series. Russia won 7:5 and Bure scored a hat-trick.

After the game he spoke to Andrey Kuznetsov of Sport-Express. This is a translated version of that conversation.

Kuznetsov: How did you like the game dedicated to the 1972 Summit Series?

I think, most of my emotions concern not as much the game itself, as the opportunity to meet lots of old friends. In Team Russia’s dressing-room gathered all of my close friends. I spent my whole life together with them. I grew up with Andrei Kovalenko, I played alongside with Valeri Kamensky, some of these guys coached me. As for those who were stars back in 1972 and now hit the ice again – Tretiak, Yakushev, Lutchenko – I admire them. It’s great to be a part of a friendly game like this. Actually, I had a lot of friends on Team World All-Stars too. All in all there were 8 of my former Vancouver Canucks teammates including Alex Mogilny and Greg Adams.

Funny you should bring Vancouver up. When you scored your third goal in that game, the score was 7:3. Did you think about the last Olympics at this moment?

(smiles) That’s right. But I didn’t think about it. It was very interesting for me even to sit on a bench between the shifts and watch hockey. It was fun to watch my buddies play. They’re all a part of my life.

You still scored a hat-trick. Do you feel like a hero of the game?

I’m no hero. Heroes are the ones who played in the 1972 Summit Series. I was just having fun.

It is still uncertain whether or not the NHL is going to allow its players to participate in 2014 Olympics in Sochi. What is your prognosis on that?

I hope that the NHL is going to let its players go to the Olympics. Isn’t it going to make it look prestigious when about half of the players that are going to be there will represent NHL teams?

Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk said they would come to Sochi no matter what.

I don’t think that’s possible. They’ve got contracts on their hands. How do they think it’s even possible? As all the fans out there, I’m waiting for IIHF, NHL and Olympic Committee to come to an agreement, so we would see the NHL players in Sochi.

Phil Esposito said: ‘When I was watching highlights of the Russian league, I went like ‘Wow!’. Do you have a similar feeling about the KHL?

I’m proud that Russia now has KHL. Actually, I’m very well aware of who was behind its birth – Vladimir Putin. I saw him [recently] and told him: ‘A lot of people don’t know who came up with an idea to create our league. But now that I know – I’m going to make sure everybody knows about it’.

I’ve spent a lot of years in North America and the fact that in our country, an alternative to the NHL is being built makes me feel great. Perhaps, it hasn’t reached the NHL level just yet, but around the world everybody talks with respect about the KHL. Russia is my homeland so I’m obviously happy to see this happening. I also want to point out that SKA, Ak Bars and Salavat Yulaev have tremendous rosters. They wouldn’t be easy to play against even in the NHL. At very least, they would have to be somewhere in the middle of the standings. That’s for sure.

What KHL stars do you like the most?

Just as a lot of other people, I’m going to point out Alex Radulov and Evgeny Kuznetsov. They represent 2 different generations, but both are terrific players. They are the key players in the KHL. There’s not a doubt in my mind that they are going to be recognized as great players worldwide. Kuznetsov is 100% ready to play in the NHL. Sure, I’m not that familiar with his personal life, but hockey-wise he’s NHL-ready.

By the way, does the prime-minister root for any team in the league that he invented? Or is it only the national team that has a special place in his heart?

I know that he loves hockey. That’s important. Vladimir Putin had never skated in his life but in the past 8 months he has learned a ton of stuff. Did you see him play in November? He can skate, back-skate, shoot and score goals. It’s an incredible progress for such a short period of time. When you’re 6 you get a grasp of everything really fast. However, when you’re 40 or older it’s very hard to learn something new. I can feel it when I practice my ju-jitsu. I can feel that I didn’t practice it when I was a kid. We actually joked about it with Putin. You know, we sort of swapped sports – he became a hockey player, and I became a wrestler (laughs).