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     Khristich is still a bit leery of being laughed at. Some players have good-naturedly suggested that, with his ears, he looks a little like Alfred E. Neumann of Mad magazine fame. Khristich says he thinks his ears are like everybody else's.
     "It's like he's lived here his whole life," Alan May said. "He's a burg-ers-and-fries-and-Levi's kind of guy. He laughs at the same things and [has] the same sense of humor as everybody else.
     "When he first came, the guys didn't know he could understand them as well as he could. They'd be joking around and all of a sudden one day he started talking and he knew some English. I don't know : what he was, like in school, but he's ?a harp guy. He's shy a little to people  not in the group. He won't talk a whole lot until he gets more confidence."
     "He's getting better, though," said Al Lafrate. "I'm trying to teach him my slang and he's learning well. That's what Jeff Greenlaw and I did during the whole train ride home from New York. We were just teaching him good swear words to say to guys on other teams and stuff to talk to girls in a bar.
     "But really, he's incredibly talented and going to be a star, I think. There's nowhere to go but up. When he learns the language better, it will be even more fun for him. We've got to get him a Harley, a theme song, an entourage-- everything."
     It's funny, but "everything" is what Khristich plans to show his mother when she arrives. She may stay a couple of weeks or a month, longer if she likes it.
     "A little piece of everything," Khristich said when asked what he misses. "I don't miss politics in our country. I don't miss how hard it is to live. Here, it is better to live."
     Khristich can go back to the Soviet Union anytime he wants. And it's not as if he doesn't appreciate his native land.
     "He knew from the beginning that I was writing this book," Hartje said. "He'd come in and say you should put this or that in your book. One of the things he made sure I wrote down was that Russia is a crazy country but the people have big hearts. It shows what kind of good guy he is. He didn't want people here to get the impression that the .Soviet people were not friendly or weren't treating me well."
     Hartje thinks if Khristich's mother and father (Anatoli) could join him in America, he would stay. Shevchenko has considered the possibility of arranging to buy a small shop for Khristich's parents to work in. Poile said the team would discuss sponsoring Khristich for a green card, if he was inclined.
     But then he hasn't been here a year yet and he just turned 22 in July. He has plenty of time to decide where to spend the rest of his life.
     In the meantime, he wants to fit in.
     "I am no different. I am like other people," he said. "Please write that I am not different. Only difference is that I play hockey."
     With each passing day, it becomes more and more true.

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