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04-28-2011, 11:36 PM
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Alexei Gusarov, D

Legends of Hockey:
Since making his NHL debut in 1990-91, defenceman Alexei Gusarov has been a fine positional player with an ability to make useful passes on offense. A veteran of several years in the Soviet League, he adapted quickly to the rigours of the NHL season and accepted a variety of roles to keep himself in the line up.

Born in Leningrad, Gusarov played with the local SKA club before joining the powerful Central Red Army of Moscow. He was a top player on the club for seven years and helped the USSR win the gold medal at the Calgary Olympics in 1988. The talented blueliner was selected 213th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1988 and looked solid in 36 games as a rookie in 1990-91.

The steady rearguard provided stability on the Nords' blueline and was part of the club's resurgence from the league's doormat to a first place finish in the Lockout-shortened regular season in 1995. The next year Gusarov remained with the franchise when it relocated to Colorado. During the 1996 post-season he provided savvy and nine assists while helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup. He took a regular shift on the powerful club until the early stages of the 2000-01 season.
Globe and Mail, Nov 22, 1990:
Soviet defenceman Alexei Gusarov will join the lowly Quebec Nordiques within two weeks, the National Hockey League club announced yesterday.

Quebec general manager Pierre Page said Gusarov has signed a four-year contract. He will be in Quebec once he is relieved of his duties as an officer in the Soviet army, probably in about a week.

"Gusarov has played in many world championships and won several Olympic gold medals," Page said. "In addition to being a talented player, he is a winner."
Gusarov, 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, was picked 213th over all by Quebec in the 1988 entry draft.

"We got him for his mobility and his defensive play," Page said. "We needed someone who doesn't get beat one-on-one and he's good at that."

He said Gusarov was more defence-oriented than Viacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov, former Red Army defencemen who joined the New Jersey Devils last season.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb 3, 1994: [/URL]
Butcher, a rugged Canadian and proud of it, always has a biting word or two for European opponents - or "immigrants," as he put it.

His defensive partner is Alexei Gusarov, a Russian puck-mover whose subtle skills couldn't be more different than Butcher's creative thuggery.

Butcher also had to wear No. 55 instead of his preferred No. 5, which Gusarov already inhabited.

Yet Butcher has been a willing mentor, jabbering nonstop to his partner after every shift.

It's not clear how much of Butcher's crusty banter is lost in translation, but the Russian - and Page - apparently feel that the thought counts for a lot.
Denver Post, April 20, 1997:
On the Colorado Avalanche, there are the talkative ones (Mike Ricci, Mike Keane), the quiet, shy ones (Joe Sakic, Valeri Kamensky) and the charismatic ones (Patrick Roy, Claude Lemieux).

Alexei Gusarov is the enigmatic one.

One day, "The Goose" will be the dressing-room cutup. "Hey, thRrricci," Gusarov will yell in a thick Russian accent, "Cut your hair! Too shaggy."

The next day, the Goose is the quietiest player in the room.

Although the latter Goose is more typical, there is one constant: The zone around his locker is reporter-free.

Scoring a sit-down interview with the Goose is quite a coup. Trouble is, it never has happened. Not since he arrived in Denver, at least.

Oh, sure, Gusarov will smile pleasantly at reporters and always offer a cheerful "Good Morrrning."

But try for an in-depth, expansive interview with the Goose? Forget about it. The Cubs stand a better chance of winning the World Series.

The Russian defenseman is not mean about it. He just doesn't want to do interviews, thank you very much. His English is bare bones, but just how poor it really is remains a mystery.

Then there's his age.

It is listed as 32, but some swear, if you look close enough, that's the Goose hanging his head in the background of the famous photo of Canada's Paul Henderson beating Russia in the teams' epic series in 1972.

The joke about the Goose's age is that when 39-year-old Detroit defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov was a kid, the crafty veteran Gusarov was his hero.

All jokes aside, the Goose is a valuable member of the Avalanche. He was the team's plus-minus leader in the playoffs last year (plus-13). He must have played about 40 minutes in the Avs' triple-overtime win that gave Colorado the Stanley Cup against Florida.

After a concussion earlier this season knocked him out of the lineup for a month, he slowly got his game back on track by playoff time. And, in Game 2 of Colorado's first-round series against Chicago, Gusarov was one of the best players on the ice.

But for those wanting some insight into the wiry veteran, listen to some of his teammates:

"He's one of the smartest players on the ice," said his roommate on the road, Sandis Ozolinsh. "When I was in Latvia, I knew he played for the Red Army team. He was well-known. He is one of our most reliable defensemen on the team. There's no question he doesn't get enough credit."

Ozolinsh wishes the Goose would get more recognition for his play, but knows he doesn't make it easy with his reclusive nature.

"Even with the Russian media, he doesn't like to talk with them," Ozolinsh said. "He's just a very quiet guy, but a nice guy. He just does his job at the rink and goes home."

The person who knows him best on the Avs is Kamensky. The two have played together for the last 12 years, about half of them with the Russian Red Army.

"He's a quiet guy, good guy. Good skater. Very smart. We used to hang out a lot together, but we both have families now," Kamensky said. "But, every day, there is something new with Goose. He always has a funny story for me."

Another player who knows the Goose well is Sakic. The two have played together seven years.

"He's a real great guy, and he's so talented as a defenseman," Sakic said. "He makes everything look so easy. He never panics with the puck."
Denver Post, July 16, 1999:
Gusarov likely will be paired again with Adam Foote in the Avs' defensive rotation. They have played together almost exclusively the past five seasons. Gusarov does not play a physical game the way Foote does, but he complements Foote because of his stickhandling and passing ability. He allows Foote to bang opponents in the corners and in front of the net, without having to worry about skating the puck out of the zone or making outlet passes.
Denver Post, Dec 22, 2000:
For most of the Colorado Avalanche's first five seasons in town, Alexei Gusarov was the steady defensive partner for Adam Foote.

Foote was aggressive and angry, while Gusarov relied on surreptitiousness and right-place, right-time soundness. He seemed to sneak into position, and then derail a scoring chance with a pokecheck or a tip of a pass. At times, Gusarov's passive approach could be a problem, but Foote's mean streak usually compensated.
"It's so hard, because you like everybody," said Foote, a Gusarov teammate since the 1991-92 season in Quebec. "Sometimes it ends up a numbers game. "Goosie' really carried me the first few years of my career and taught me a lot. I'm real fortunate I had him to get where I'm at. He keeps it simple and I think sometimes he doesn't get enough praise. He's had some terrible injuries the past few years, and it's been tough on him. It's hard to get back at it, especially when you're getting up there."
Denver Post, Dec 29, 2000:
Foote has the most cause to miss the enigmatic Gusarov.

In 1991, Foote joined the horrible Quebec Nordiques as a 20-year-old rookie and was paired for the first time in a defensive tandem with Gusarov. According to official NHL records - ahem - the former Soviet Red Army and USSR national team player then was 26.

"I don't think there's another Goose out there," Foote said. "I think he was really undervalued. You go back to the one championship this team has, and he was a big part of it. I think even then, he didn't get enough credit.

"That's another part of Goose's character, though. He kept things quiet. He stayed out of everything and just showed up to play. I don't think Colorado fans saw him in his true prime, and I owe a lot to him."
Although he played here over five years, Colorado didn't get to know him. If it seems that we in the media sometimes seem fixated on Gusarov, this is a confession: The cloak of mystery he always wore was intriguing.

Not once in the Denver tenure of the franchise did Gusarov ever consent to be interviewed on the team's radio and television broadcasts. As time went on, it became obvious that Gusarov understood and could speak English far better than he let on. I'll never forget walking by him one time, when he was on the phone. We waved hello, and then I heard the Russian defenseman - who professed being unable to speak more than a few words in English - say on the phone that life was great because he got to talk with reporters.

About 20 seconds later, it hit me: Gusarov said it in English.
Denver Post, May 14, 2001:
"We felt when we acquired Goose, he has the ability and he always has played against the other team's top line," Quenneville said. "We figure matching him with Pronger against the opposition's best could work. I think when you put the two of them together, they both are pretty smart mentally and positionally and can be effective."

That was no mis-statement. With the Blues back in town to play the team that first rejected him, Gusarov finds himself paired with Pronger, the reigning Hart and Norris Trophy winner as the league's most valuable player and best defenseman. That means his main assignment is to cover the Avs' top line, centered by this year's Hart favorite, Joe Sakic.

According to MacInnis, Gusarov's ability to make a strong outlet pass keeps forecheckers from focusing solely on Pronger as the Blues move out of their own zone.

Last edited by overpass: 05-29-2011 at 10:40 AM.
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