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Plenty Unified Enough
Steve Rushin
March 02, 1992
For a dynasty supposedly on its last legs, the Russians were masterly
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March 02, 1992

Plenty Unified Enough

For a dynasty supposedly on its last legs, the Russians were masterly

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On Sunday, Burke talked of returning to see his family and fianc�e in Calgary. "I'll keep myself in shape and wait until the [March 10] trade deadline is over in the NHL," he said. "And if nothing happens, I'm looking forward to my golf season this summer."

But even as he was pondering his pro-am schedule, Burke was well aware that his play in these Olympics had gone a long way toward determining whether he'll become a pro or remain an am in hockey this season. "I like to think you can never hurt yourself by playing well," he said. "But the other side of things is, in the past, New Jersey has asked for a lot for me in a trade. Maybe now they'll be asking for even more."

The buzz at M�ribel had Burke bound for Quebec, where his 18-year-old near-Elvis-caliber-celebrity Olympic teammate, Lindros, has vowed he will never play. The boy who allegedly turned down a 10-year, $50 million contract offer from the Nordiques was exchanging 10-frane coins every night in the athletes' village in La Tania, then playing video games into the wee hours. Which has nothing to do with why he looked alternately sleepy and spectacular during the Games. "The name of Lindros's book is Fire on Ice" CBS hockey analyst John Davidson remarked during an off-air break on Sunday. "But this is the first time I've seen him fired upon ice."

That's because he plays with the ease of the man on the flying trapeze: During Canada's first Olympic game against the Unified Team, on Feb. 16, Canadian forward Patrick Lebeau lost his stick near center ice. When the action reversed, a coasting Lindros found himself with the stick at his feet and Lebeau behind him. Without appearing to look down, the Next One casually used his own stick to flick the one on the ice over his left shoulder, as if shoveling snow. Lebeau didn't even break stride when the stick flew directly into his hands, as if it were a trapeze bar returning to him.

On Sunday, as he had all tournament, the pterodactylian Lindros checked Russians as though he were pasting up wallpaper. This ticked off Tikhonov, 62, who gave the teenager an earful of...what? "I don't know," said Lindros. "I don't speak Russian."

And, Lindros insists, he won't be speaking French to les Quebecois anytime soon, either. "I didn't think how I played here would have any effect on the NHL," said Lindros, who was the fifth-leading scorer in the tournament. "I don't think they're going to trade me."

Thus Lindros had immediate plans to go skiing in the Alps before returning to Canada, where he is a member of the Oshawa Generals junior team. Meanwhile his conversation mate, Tikhonov, was more coy about his own future. Would he return to coach in the next Olympics or does he see some Cyrillic handwriting on the wall? "It is too early to tell," he says. "Only God knows what will happen in 1994."

Should Tikhonov retire, the team would be inherited by his assistant, Igor Dmitriev, a slick Western-style hipster who currently coaches the Soviet Wings of the elite league. Dmitriev speaks English but insists on using a translator. Something suggests that the '94 team, whomever it may consist of, would be in sure hands with this man.

"Is this year's team hungrier than other teams that have represented your country in the past?" Dmitriev was asked by an earnest North American reporter last week. As the question was being relayed in Russian, Dmitriev cut off the translator in mid-sentence. "Tosh!" said the coach, or something that sounded similar, before walking away with a wave of his hands.

After pausing a beat, the nonplussed translator interpreted Dmitriev's monosyllable: "He says, 'Yes, yes, definitely. This team wants to win gold medals.' "

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