Nearly two decades after his three-and-half-year stint with the Canadiens came to an end, the now 41-year-old father of three is enjoying spending time with family in Southern California while pursuing a passion for winemaking with a label of his own based in the Napa Valley.
Bure and his wife, actress, producer, author and talk show panelist, Candace Cameron, are the proud parents of 17-year-old Natasha, 16-year-old Lev, and 14-year-old Maksim. They’ll celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in June after tying the knot while Bure was still plying his trade in Montreal as a youngster.
“It’s been a quick 20 years, especially when you’re in the midst of everything going on. Looking back, we have three amazing kids that we’re super proud of. We’re still doing what we love. We’ve been blessed beyond what we can imagine with a great lifestyle. I played in the NHL and Candace has been busy acting. I absolutely love being with my kids and producing some of the best wine in the world,” said Bure, who was a second-round pick of the Canadiens – 33rd overall – in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft after a standout rookie season with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs.
Family trips to Napa County are commonplace for the Bures, when time permits of course. Their label – Bure Family Wines – is based in St. Helena, CA, in the heart of wine country. Interestingly enough, Valeri’s interest in wine actually dates back to his tenure with the CH.
“Some of the guys on the team always liked to have a glass of wine with their meals. I wasn’t a big drinker, but after having a glass here and there and really starting to understand the concept, quality and different varietals, I took a strong interesting in it. Then, I started traveling the world tasting and my passion just grew. I went from buying and storing bottles in a small fridge to a bigger fridge to a walk-in fridge, and now I own a label,” said Bure, who released his first vintage back in 2006.
“What I like about winemaking is that every year it brings a new challenge. There’s never a dull moment. You're dealing with droughts or wet weather. Something always has to be adjusted, whether it’s with the harvest, the blending or the barrels. You’re always chasing perfection. It never ends,” added Bure. “On top of that, it’s a lifestyle. Napa is all about food, family, friends and wine. That’s really dear to my heart. It’s the perfect place to be easygoing and enjoy time together.”
When Bure isn’t upstate, you’ll likely find him at a local rink working with his sons, both of whom play competitively with the Los Angeles Jr. Kings Hockey Club. Lev is playing at the Midget 16AAA level, while Maksim is currently a member of the Bantam AAA Minor squad. Candace is a mainstay at the rink, too, even making the trip from New York, on occasion – where she co-hosts ABC’s The View – back to Los Angeles the same day to catch her boys’ on-ice workouts.
“I pick them up from school and we spend two, three or even four hours a day at the rink. Probably every other weekend, we’re traveling somewhere for tournaments – Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Vancouver. It’s fun to be able to see them grow. You’re proud of them for competing, for standing up and being there ready for practice and games. They love it. They work hard. They love the dressing room. I really fell in love with hockey all over again from the parent point of view. Candace enjoys it also,” said Bure, who is a firm believer that hockey can be a positive influence on youngsters of all ages. “It teaches my kids accountability, teamwork and work ethic. That’s something they can carry with them for the rest of their lives, no matter what they choose to do professionally. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for them.”
Natasha, meanwhile, is eager to follow in Candace’s footsteps and pursue a career in showbiz. Bure says his eldest child “loves singing, dancing and acting” and possesses a “beautiful voice and outgoing personality.” That shouldn’t come as much of a shock given her mom’s extensive Hollywood resume that includes, among many other credits, an eight-year run as D.J. Tanner on the hit American sitcom Full House. With the release of the Netflix spinoff Fuller House last Friday – and Candace reprising her old role – it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Natasha’s acting bug was at an all-time high.
“We attended all of the tapings they did last year, and we were at the premiere also. It’s very exciting to see all those guys again, from Bob [Saget] to John [Stamos] to Dave [Coulier]. I’ve known them for over 20 years, but I’d never seen them on stage performing on Full House. That was a lot of fun. It was one big reunion,” shared Bure, who was introduced to Cameron by Coulier at a charity hockey game in Los Angeles in 1995. “The chemistry on that show is really, really amazing. All these years later, it’s like they never left.”
Bure's memories of his time in Montreal make it seem like he never left the city, either. In his mind, there really isn’t any hockey market quite like it.
“It’s such a special place. I don’t think I appreciated it enough when I was there. I really did love every minute of it, though. From being drafted at the Forum and putting on the jersey for the first time, to going to training camp, making the team and playing as a 20-year-old, it was a unique experience. I also really enjoyed the culture the city has to offer. It meant a lot to begin my career there,” said Bure, who debuted with the Canadiens in 1994-95 and went on to play on the so-called “Smurf Line” alongside Saku Koivu and Oleg Petrov one year later. “One of the things that really stood out was on game days, especially when we were playing at the Forum. You didn’t have to get mentally ready to play because the minute you stepped into the rink, with the atmosphere and history around you, your blood just started to flow and you had no other feeling but to go out there and compete. I will remember that for the rest of my life. Sometimes, I wish I would have ended my career in Montreal just to experience it again.”
Bure recalls learning the tricks of the NHL trade from the likes of Mike Keane, Kirk Muller, Lyle Odelein, Vincent Damphousse, Vladimir Malakhov, Mark Recchi and Patrick Roy in the infancy of his 10-year NHL career. It didn’t hurt to be surrounded by Canadiens Hall-of-Famers, either, all of whom were eager to pass along their wisdom and knowledge to the next generation of Habs regulars.
“Some of those guys don’t have enough fingers to wear all of their Stanley Cup rings,” cracked Bure, who would like to bring his whole family to Montreal sometime soon for a trip down memory lane. “They were really down to earth. It was amazing to see how helpful they wanted to be. They’d been in these situations before. They’d won at every level. When guys like Steve Shutt and Yvan Cournoyer came down to the dressing room, it was a very humbling experience for us. Our group was very strong because of the players we had and the support of the legends. To me, it’s the best club in the NHL, by far. Montreal will always have a special place in my heart.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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