On the Penguins: Hockey has been good to assistant general manager Jason Botterill

But even he admits he's not the most accomplished in his family

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Jason Botterill has had a pretty nice career in this game.

He won three gold medals representing Canada at the world junior championships, earned a scholarship to the University of Michigan and was Dallas' first-round draft choice in 1994.

He played 481 games as a pro, including 88 in the NHL, before his career was cut short by a concussion, but then returned to school and began moving down the path that has led to his position as assistant general manager of the Penguins.

Pretty impressive stuff, but not even close to the most gaudy resume in his family.

That belongs to his sister, Jennifer, a mainstay of the Canadian women's national squad.

A sampling of her accomplishments: Two Olympic gold medals and one silver. Five world championships. An NCAA title at Harvard, where she got at least one point in 106 of 107 career games.

Genetics likely contributed at least a bit to the siblings' success. Their mother, Doreen, was a speed skater who represented Canada at the 1964 and 1968 Winter Olympics. But Jason Botterill is quick to point out that his sister "has worked extremely hard at her craft."

Evaluating talent is a major part of his job description these days -- he oversees hockey operations of the Penguins' farm team in Wilkes-Barre -- and offers this scouting report on his sister:

"She has always been a fairly good skater and an excellent playmaker. She looks to make passes before shooting. Sometimes, I think she needs to be a little more aggressive in shooting the puck."

He characterizes her as "an unbelievable athlete" who has excelled at a variety of sports, but says it was his involvement in hockey that drew her into the game.

"We used to play ball hockey in our basement," he said. "I knew she was probably going to be a pretty good player when I'd go in net and, when she started out, she'd shoot little softballs at me and they'd be no problem at all.

"Then, as she got going, she'd wind up and take big slappers at me and I'd be darting to get out of the way rather than trying to stop them."

When both were playing, keeping up with his sister's career was a bit challenging. Botterill, for example, learned that his sister had won a gold medal at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City while on a team bus in Portland, Me.

That's not an issue anymore. He attended the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy, and will be in Vancouver in February.

And any sibling rivalry there might be between the two doesn't seem to color the way Botterill looks at his sister's career. If he has a single corpuscle of jealousy about her on-ice achievements, it doesn't show.

"My sister is extremely humble," he said. "She always talked about our relationship growing up, and how that got her excited about playing hockey. I always love to talk about her."

A sadly forgotten Russia

Russia will be one of the favorites in the men's hockey competition in Vancouver, and that country's heritage in the game rivals nearly any in the world.

The Soviet Union's national team, for which Russia was the top source of talent, dominated international competitions during the 1970s and '80s -- that is why, when the U.S. captured the gold medal at Lake Placid in 1980, it quickly became known as "The Miracle on Ice" -- and players such as Valeri Kharlamov rank among the most gifted who ever laced up a pair of skates.

While visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame with teammates nine days ago -- the Penguins had a team meal in the Great Hall there and had the run of the place for the night -- defenseman Sergei Gonchar was prompted to reflect on his homeland's achievements in the sport. And on how that history does not receive the recognition it merits in Russia.

"I was kind of jealous, because Russia has so much history, hockey-wise -- we won a lot of [international] competitions -- but, unfortunately, we don't have a place like that," he said.

"Not at that level. You can see how everything is organized. It seemed like they put their soul into it. They really did a great job. As a Russian -- as a hockey player who grew up in a different country -- I wish we had something like that."

Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .


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