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Pavel Bure: The Riddle of the Russian Rocket

by Kerry Banks

Ever since Pavel Bure arrived in North America in 1991, he has been the subject of endless rumours, including allegations of involvement with the Russian Mob, faked injuries, a mysteriously brief marriage to an American woman, and questions about his sexual orientation – all of which provide fertile ground for an unauthorized biography.

As a piece of journalism, Vancouver sportswriter Kerry Bank’s Pavel Bure is dead-on. Working around the hockey star’s refusal to be interviewed for the book, Banks has mined a vast number of printed sources, and talked to many people – including Bure’s father and ex-manager Vladimir – to develop a clear picture of what the Russian Rocket’s life has been like up to now. Banks’s description of the on-ice action, Bure’s contract talks with the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers, and his depiction of Bure’s adolescent years within the Soviet hockey system will appeal to hockey fans.

The book’s narrative, though, would be stronger if Banks had included some deeper analysis of Bure’s role within the bigger picture of NHL hockey, as well as a discussion of the role of foreign players. It’s not until chapter 12, “The Reluctant Superstar,” that Banks really takes on some of the issues underlying the sport when he explores Bure’s appeal to the gay community in Vancouver, and his handlers’ attempts to turn him into a profitable commodity. Banks is certainly in a good position to write this sort of commentary – but too often he seems reluctant to offer his own take on the topic at hand.