Childhood & Early Life
Valeri Vladimirovich “Val” Bure was born on June 13, 1974, to Vladimir and Tatiana Bure, in Moscow. His elder brother, Pavel, has been nicknamed the ‘Russian Rocket’ in the ‘NHL.’
Bure’s father, Vladimir, was a former ‘Olympic’ swimmer who won four medals for the Soviet Union in various ‘Olympic’ events between 1968 and 1976. Later, the Vladimir was able to use his athletic prowess to coach his sons to attain ice hockey glory in the US.
Bure’s parents separated when he was 9. When he was 17, and Pavel was 20, his father immigrated to the US with both sons in tow, to start building their hockey careers. Bure avoided military service with the ‘Red Army’ when he left Russia in 1991. Fearing compulsory service, he did not return to the country until he became an American citizen and turned 28 in 2002.
The family settled in Los Angeles initially to start their training regimen. Vladimir was notoriously tough on both sons. Although their relationship was initially respectful, of late, both Pavel and Valeri have parted ways with their father and no longer speak to him.
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Bure played briefly in the ‘Soviet Championship League’ for ‘HC CSKA Moscow’ (the ‘Red Army’ team) in the 1990–1991 season.
While Pavel signed with the ‘Vancouver Canucks,’ Valeri played with the ‘Spokane Chiefs’ of the ‘Western Hockey League’ (WHL), making history as the first Russian player to compete in the league.
In his very first season (1991–1992), Bure was able to score 49 points in 53 games, building a reputation as a “good competitor.” This led the ‘Montreal Canadiens’ to select him as part of their second-round pick at the 1992 ‘NHL Entry Draft.’
He returned to ‘Spokane’ for the 1992–1993 season, where he led the team to an overall ranking of number 2 in the ‘WHL.’ He also set a ‘Spokane Chiefs’ franchise record that season with 68 goals, ending up on the ‘WHL West Division First All-Star’ team as a result.
Although he trained with the ‘Canadiens,’ he returned to the ‘Chiefs’ in the 1993–1994 season for a final stint in the ‘WHL.’ He was selected to be part of the ‘Second All-Star’ team as a result of his work and reached the fourth position on the ‘Chief’s all-time scoring list.
In 1994, he made his international debut, playing for the Russian national junior and senior teams in the 1994 ‘World Junior Championship’ (where his team won the bronze) and the ‘World Championships,’ respectively.
In the 1994–1995 season, Bure spent considerable time playing for ‘Montreal’s ‘American Hockey League’ (AHL) affiliate, the ‘Fredericton Canadiens.’ He managed to impress them with his performance and was recalled to ‘Montreal’ as a result, making his ‘NHL’ debut in February 1995. Although he played relatively well in his first full season for Montreal, a plethora of injuries and the pressure to live up to his superstar brother derailed Bure in the following season.
He was traded to the ‘Calgary Flames’ in February 1998, a move he welcomed. Bure was arguably at his best while playing for the ‘Flames,’ garnering fame as one of their leading scorers. With them, Bure scored his first hat-trick. He once made winning goals for the ‘Flames’ in 4 consecutive games.
He made his first ‘Olympic’ appearance in 1998, playing for Russia, alongside ‘Pavel.’ Their team won a silver medal.
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His performance allowed him to play in the 2000 ‘All-Star Game,’ also with ‘Pavel.’ Later that season, ‘Valeri’s goals for the ‘Flames’ and ‘Pavel’s goals for the ‘Florida Panthers’ combined (93 goals) created an ‘NHL’ record for most goals by a set of siblings.
Starting with the 2000–2001 season, his goal-scoring capacity began to decline and he eventually got involved in a strategic tussle with one of the coaches, who insisted that he play on defensive lines instead. Bure expressed interest in being traded, and the ‘Florida Panthers’ (Pavel’s team) acquired him in June 2001.
Contract negotiation hold-ups and a persistent injury that eventually required surgery kept him out of action for much of the 2001–2002 season. His slump continued in the following season, owing to a wrist injury. As a result, he was briefly traded to the ‘St. Louis Blues,’ where yet another injury prevented him from playing extensively.
He returned to the ‘Olympics’ in 2002, winning a bronze medal for Russia.
He returned to the ‘Panthers’ injury-free for the 2003–2004 season, his offensive ability restored. Although he was their leading scorer, he was traded to the ‘Dallas Stars’ in 2004, as the ‘Panthers’ were out of playoff contention.
Although he signed a one-year contract with the ‘Los Angeles Kings’ for the 2005–2006 season, further injuries prevented him from playing and prompted him to retire.
Bure featured on the figure-skating reality show ‘Battle of the Blades’ in 2010. Paired with Ekaterina Gordeeva, he won the competition and was awarded US$ 100,000 as prize money.
Awards & Achievements
Bure was appointed to the ‘First All-Star’ and the ‘Second All-Star’ teams of ‘WHL’ in the 1992–1993 and 1993–1994 seasons, respectively.
In 1994, he was made part of the ‘World Junior All-Star’ team and later played in a 1999 ‘NHL All-Star’ game.
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Bure holds an ‘NHL’ record along with his brother, Pavel, for most goals scored by a set of siblings.
He got married to ‘Full House’ star and Conservative mouthpiece Candace Cameron Bure on June 22, 1996. Valeri and Candace are both devout Christians. They have three children, Natasha, Lev, and Maksim.
In December 2001, he became an American citizen. This meant he could return to Russia without being pulled into the military.
He has cited his family as the reason for his 2005 retirement.
The athlete and his wife ventured into the food and hospitality business when they opened a café called ‘The Milk and Honey Café’ in Florida in 2007, before relocating to California to operate a winery in Napa Valley.
The Bure brothers famously endured two workouts per day with their exacting father, while starting their careers in the ‘NHL.’
At 5’10”, he was considered a small player in the ‘NHL.’ Along with two similarly sized ‘Montreal’ teammates, he was known as part of the ‘Smurf Line.’
The Bure family originated in Furna, Switzerland. They made a reputation for themselves as watch-suppliers and manufacturers for Russian tsars for over a century. In view of their proximity to the royal family, Bure’s ancestors were granted noble status.
Both Candace and Valeri wish to help their children get acquainted with Russian culture. Val mostly speaks to them in Russian.