In the late 1990s, the Dallas Stars emerged as one of the dominant franchises in the NHL, winning the Stanley Cup in 1999 and returning to the finals in 2000. Night in and night out, coach Ken Hitchcock sent out an incredible lineup that boasted goalie Ed Belfour and skaters Brett Hull, Mike Modano and Joe Nieuwendyk, to name just a few. But it may be said that no other player has been as crucial to the team's success as its Russian defenseman, Sergei Zubov.
An offensive-minded rearguard, the 6-foot 1-inch, 200-pound Zubov adds tremendous scoring as well as consistent leadership on the power play. "He brings his great skill with him, and his performance has been so consistent," says Stars general manager.
Zubov played four seasons with Moscow's Central Red Army team, between 1988 and 1992. He represented the Soviet Union at the World Junior Championships in 1989 and 1990, when his teams won the gold and silver medal respectively. He was also a gold medal winner as a member of the Unified Team at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. He played for Russia at the 1992 World Championships a fifth-place finish, and at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, where his team placed fourth.
In 1990 the New York Rangers drafted Zubov in the fifth round with the 85th overall pick. They assigned him to their AHL farm team in Binghamton, New York, in 1992, and after 30 games he'd registered 36 points and earned a promotion. In his first 49 NHL games he generated a promising 8 goals and 31 points. His second season, 1993-94, he reached his offensive zenith, scoring 77 assists and 89 points. He added 5 goals and 19 points during the playoffs to help the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup since 1940.
After parts of three seasons in the Ranger organization Zubov was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. After only one year in Penguin black and gold, he was dealt to the Dallas Stars. He quickly became a favorite of the Texas fans, wowing them with his strong skating and superb stickhandling, both traits that were at a premium within coach Hitchcock's defensive system.
Although Zubov has traditionally taken few penalties, he is not afraid of physical play. He also specializes in quick rushes out of the defensive zone and is an expert at making short, hard passes to set up a forward. In 1996-97, his first season in Dallas, he was tops among all NHL defenders with 47 assists.
During the 1997-98 season, Zubov represented his country for a second time at the Winter Olympics in Nagano before helping lead the Stars to the Western Conference title and a victory over the upstart Buffalo Sabres in the Stanley Cup finals in 1999.
Zubov and the Stars returned to the finals yet again in 2000, only to fall short against a talented New Jersey Devils squad. One of the more durable players in the league, Zubov played in his 700th NHL game during the 2001-02 season and registered career point number 500 that same year, while helping team Russia earn a bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
In 2003-04, Zubov entered his 12th season in the NHL and his eighth season with Dallas.