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After Hall of Fame induction, Zubov reminisces on career, Mario Lemieux, Ken Hitchcock and more

18 novembre 2019
As Sergei Zubov was set to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto as part of the class of 2019, the legendary defenseman did a circuit of media interviews and has dropped some unexpected gems along the way.

Interviewed by Igor Rabiner of Sport Express, Zubov expressed hope that he will soon be joined in the HoF by Alexander Mogilny (long considered a bubble candidate) and Sergei Gonchar, the only Russian-born defenseman to surpass Zubov in career NHL points, 811 to 771. Zubov did play 200 fewer NHL contests than Gonchar and spent the last year of his career in the KHL, so it is conceivable that he could have held that record as well.

The legendary defenseman had a couple of short stints with the NY Rangers, winning the Stanley Cup in 1994 when he led the team in points with 89, despite starting the season in the AHL (Mike Keenan felt that Zubov was carrying too much excess weight at training camp). At the end of the following season, he was somewhat surprised when the Rangers traded him and F Petr Nedved to the Penguins for aging D Ulf Samuelsson and F Luc Robitaille. Zubov recalls that the presence of the Flyers dominant Legion of Doom (LeClair-Lindros-Renberg) line may have contributed to the Rangers panicking and seeking to counter with a bigger, more intimidating defenseman in Samuelsson. Ulf played for four more years with the Rangers, providing what little grit his body had left, while Zubov's career was just taking off.

His stop in Pittsburgh was also brief, lasting all of one season (1995-96), before being traded to the Dallas Stars for D Kevin Hatcher in the off-season. Zubov confirmed longstanding rumours of tension with Pens captain Mario Lemieux, but denied that the distribution of the puck on the powerplay was a factor.

"There was just a moment when two egos, mine and his, met," said Zubov. "We said a couple of words to each other on the bench, and he probably didn't like it. Great man, great hockey player, he probably had the right to talk and I [having not accomplished nearly as much] didn't. But that's what happened."

Zubov did not like the idea of playing for Dallas. The club was still fresh in the city, having moved from Minnesota in 1993, and were in a process of rebuilding on the fly. He told his agent to ask Bob Gainey, then the Stars GM to move him along in another trade, going as far as missing training camp. Gainey stood firm and Zubov reported, with no hard feelings left over after.

Perhaps the most interesting part of his journey as it took him and Dallas to the Stanley Cup in 1999, was his relationship with head coach Ken Hitchcock, who still considers Zubov to be among the best players he has ever coached. Zubov, in turn, praised Hitchcock as a great psychological motivator, a great coach, and a wonderful human being.

"I came back to the locker-room after a game once," recounted Zubov. "Three years with the Rangers, a year with the Pens behind me, averaging close to a point per game. You walk by your head coach, and you hear 'Hey, you played like shit'. In front of everyone! That stuff will mess with your head!"

"How did he respond? I kept my mouth shut. I realized that I had no right to talk back. Coaching is a rough job and I respected every coach I played for. I just didn't speak to him for a week. Held a grudge, ignored him. It got to me. Then I started to prove to him who I was and what I was capable of...many years later, I told him, 'Ken, you're awesome. You really lit a fire under me.'"

And now, that he has had a few years of his coaching experience in the KHL, can he call a player "shit" under the right circumstances? "Not just yet," said a smiling Zubov.

Which of the two Cups that he won was more meaningful? "The second," Zubov answered. "You already have a sense of how precious it is, how much you go through to win it. It's not just the result, it's the journey. It's everything you experience along the way."

The Stars will hold their own ceremony to honor Zubov and Guy Carbonneau on December 13th. Zubov's number will also be retired by the franchise.

Source: Sport Express
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