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A dream come true for Generals' Serov
Greensboro's left wing is a member of Ukraine's Olympic hockey team.
BY KEITH TOLBERT
Special to the News & Record
February 8, 2002
No red line in Olypmic play is a plus for the Generals' Vlad Serov, a member of Ukraine's hockey team known for his speed.
Photo by Joseph Rodriguez - News & Record.
GREENSBORO - Talking to Greensboro Generals hockey player Vlad Serov about the Olympics is like talking to a child about a toy store.
There is a noticeable enthusiasm and excitement in his voice when he speaks of representing his country, Ukraine, as a member of the hockey team.
"When I was little, I always watched" the Olympics, Serov said. "I always dreamed about playing on the team."
Serov, a left wing for the Generals, recently had that dream fulfilled when he was selected as a member of Ukraine's team. He left Sunday to join the team and will play in the preliminary-round game at 4 p.m. today against Belarus.
Serov has been playing professional hockey for many years in North America after leaving Ukraine. But he practiced with the Ukraine national team this past summer.
He had been asked to play the last two years with the team in the World Hockey Championships, but had to turn them down because his professional teams were in the middle of the playoffs.
This time the opportunity was too good to pass on.
"It's tough because we (the Generals) are struggling to make the playoffs," Serov said. "But it's a huge opportunity."
Generals assistant coach Alex Godynyuk, also a Ukraine native, wrote a letter of recommendation for Serov because he felt he could make a difference.
"He is definitely going to bring some speed and intensity to that team," Godynyuk said.
Serov said the team should be competitive because there are four members from the NHL, two members from NHL farm teams and the rest play in European Elite leagues. He said the team's goal is to make the medal round, but it will be tough because the round-robin group includes Switzerland and France.
"I'm in good shape and feeling good," Serov said. "If everyone chips in 100 percent, the team should be pretty good."
One factor that could help Serov and his team is that the Olympic hockey competition will be played without a red line - the ice's center divide that prevents long passes and allows stifling defensive systems such as the offside trap to exist. Without the line, the game should feature more scoring and faster skating. Serov's speed is his greatest asset.
"Hopefully, it will give me more time to get my speed going," he said.
The downside to his departure for the Generals is they lose their leading scorer (20 goals, 34 points) for at least two weeks and possibly three weeks if Ukraine reaches the medal round.
"You can't replace him," said Generals coach Graeme Townshend. "You just get ready for life without him for three weeks."
Townshend is so impressed with Serov's abilities he has asked a friend and agent to look at Serov while he is in Salt Lake City.
"He should be in the NHL," said Townshend, a former NHL player. "If the kid plays well out there, who knows?"
And what is Serov looking forward to the most while at the Olympics? Walking in with the rest of his countrymen in the opening ceremony, scheduled for 8 p.m. today (WXII-12).
"We are all going to be wearing long trench coats," Serov said. "It is very exciting."