Backchecking: Valeri Bure

Valeri Bure

By Gareth Bush

Valeri Bure made a career out of beating NHL defenders with blazing speed. Having been retired for a decade, he hasn’t slowed down.

Bure played 10 seasons in the NHL, primarily with the Canadiens, Flames and Panthers, posting 407 points in 643 career games. After undergoing back surgery following 2003-04, he decided to retire. From the first time players lace up a pair of skates to the last time they take them off, hockey is the only thing most NHLers ever know. Understandably, many retirees choose to stay in the game, working in management, player development, coaching and anything in between. But not Bure, who had a thirst for something else.

“A few of my veteran teammates in Montreal enjoyed going out for a nice dinner and a glass of wine, so at the age of 20 I was introduced to the wine world,” he says. “From there my passion for wine just kept growing.”

Years later, Bure took an off-season trip to Napa Valley, a California-based wine region considered one of the world’s best. It was there he decided he would create his own label.

“I fell in love with the behind-the-scenes work and being able to start from the vineyard and put it into a bottle,” he says. “It’s an amazing process.”

In 2006, Bure Family Wines was born. Located in St. Helena, Calif., BFW produces five small-lot, handcrafted wines, including a cabernet sauvignon named Majesty. The title pays tribute to Bure’s great-grandfather, who was the watchmaker for the Russian czar. The company logo also symbolizes a Russian imperial seal that he placed on each watch. After six years of developing and crafting his product, Bure says business is finally starting to pick up.

“The brand is getting a lot stronger and industry critics are giving us pretty high scores,” he says. “It’s very fun to see that when I’m travelling, people know me for my wine and not so much for hockey.”

Bure describes managing BFW as a full-time job, but winemaking isn’t the only occupation Bure has added to his resume since leaving the NHL. He and his wife, Candace Cameron-Bure (best known for her role on Full House), opened a restaurant called The Milk and Honey Cafe in Florida in 2007, though it later closed when the family moved to California to focus on BFW.

Aside from his marriage to a Hollywood actress, Bure returned to the public eye in 2010 when he participated on CBC’s Battle of the Blades, a competitive reality show that pairs former NHL players with figure skaters. It was an experience he was originally reluctant to pursue and describes as the most difficult of his life.

“My wife convinced me to do it, but by the end of the show I actually started enjoying it because it gave me an adrenaline rush like hockey,” Bure says. “You’re not performing in front of 20,000 people, but this was just more cunning.”

Bure and his dance partner Ekaterina Gordeeva won the competition.
Of course, hockey is still a big part of his life. He coaches his three teenage children, all registered minor league players in California. More noticeably, Bure’s brother Pavel was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

“Watching his highlight reel at the ceremony, the hair was standing up on my neck,” Bure says. “It was super cool and I couldn’t believe my brother is in the Hall of Fame. He deserves it.”

This article originally appeared in the March 3, 2014 edition of The Hockey News. For more great analysis, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to THN magazine.