Ask most Canuck fans and they'll probably tell you they remember the night of November 5, 1991 vividly. The night a small kid from Russia would make his much anticipated NHL debut. Unfortunately, I am not among those who recall the night Pavel first took to the ice in Canucks colors. While I don't ever remember a time in my life where I didn't love hockey, I was 8 at the time and for me, it was more about the players I liked rather than allegiance to a favorite team. Pavel Bure changed that. He quickly became my favorite player as I followed him more closely, and of course being from BC and that my favorite player was a Canuck, the Canucks became my favorite team.
My story is not a unique one.
Canucks fans clamored to be among the first to see Bure live on the ice at Pacific Coliseum to see if he could live up to the hype. After all the controversy in selecting him 113th overall in the 1989 NHL entry draft while many believed he wasn't eligible, to the court case with the Russian league to complete his transfer, fans wanted to see if this youngster was worth all the trouble. Those fans would not go home disappointed.
While Bure didn't hit the scoreboard that night, he made the hockey world stand up and take notice. Early on, Pavel took control of the puck in the Vancouver end and rushed up the ice, blowing through the Jets defence and driving to the net for a scoring chance, his first of many that night. He dazzled those in attendance with his blazing speed, soft hands and his tendency to make opposing defenders more closely resemble pylons than NHL caliber hockey players. He energized the crowd, creating chance after chance and generating several odd man rushes. He dominated the game in a way few others have before or since. It was only one game, an early November contest against the Winnipeg Jets, but Canucks fans were sold. Among the rave reviews, it was said that Bure was "the fastest Soviet creation since Sputnik." The Russian Rocket had arrived.
Bure never looked back after that first game. His electrifying style and skill breathed new life into the fan base. Never before had fans seen a player with such game breaking talent, not only on a game by game basis, but shift by shift. The Canucks finally had one of the games truly elite players. Every time he touched the puck, there was potential for something magical to happen. There were highlight reel plays on a nightly basis. He brought fans back into the building, and drew even more fans to the game of hockey and to the Canucks as well. The Canucks have Bure and his amazing skill set to thank for a large portion of the current fan base. Bure scored at a torrid pace, seemingly at will sometimes, spawning an entire generation of Canucks fans. Pavel Bure brought something for everyone. If speed and skill was your thing, Bure brought that in spades. Looking for heart and determination? Bure was never afraid to go into the corner and win battles down low for the puck, never quit on a play and would drive straight through a wall if it meant getting the puck to the net. If grit and tenacity was more up your alley, well, let's just say Bure wasn't afraid to fight his own battles, even if it meant crossing the line a little bit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZCuZ5UWEV0. Awards and honors. Controversy. Drama. Potential mob ties. Pavel Bure brought it all.
Injuries would take their toll on the superstar winger, but he continued to impress throughout his career until he retired as a member of the New York Rangers in 2005. It would seem he joined the Rangers a few years too late. After Wayne Gretzky's retirement in 1999, he was asked if he'd considered playing one more season and if there was anything that might have driven him to play one more year. Gretzky quickly answered that if the Rangers had completed a trade for Pavel Bure, whom the Rangers had been pursuing via trade but reportedly balked at the asking price before Bure was subsequently dealt to the Panthers that Gretzky would have played one more year.
"I'll tell you this, this is the best way I can say it: If they would have traded for Pavel Bure last year, I probably still would be playing right now," Gretzky told the interviewer.
Coming from the Great One himself, that's pretty high praise. We'll be left to wonder what could have been, to see the greatest player and playmaker in history playing with one of the purest goal scorers the game has ever seen.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOKukTxVfzE, having his #10 retired by the Canucks is a deserving honor and long overdue. Some may question the decision given the length of his tenure in Vancouver, as he only appeared in 428 regular season games with the Canucks. However, when you look at what Bure did with those 428 games with Vancouver, retiring his jersey is a no brainer.
NHL - Calder Memorial Trophy Winner (Rookie of the Year) 1992 (1st Canuck to win a major NHL award)
NHL - All Star Game - (5 times) 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998
NHL - First Team All Star 1994
NHL - Goal Scoring Leader - 1994
Canucks - All time points - 478 (7th)
Canucks - All time goals - 254 (5th)
Canucks - Hat Tricks - 9 (2nd)
Canucks - Game Winning goals - 32 (5th)
Canucks - Power Play goals - 69 (7th)
Canucks - Most points by a rookie in a season - 60 in 1991-92 (tied with Ivan Hlinka, 1981-82)
Canucks - Most goals in a season - 60 in 1992-93 and 1993-94
Canucks - All time playoff goals - 34 (tied with Trevor Linden)
Canucks - All time shorthanded goals - 24
Canucks - Most goals in one game - 4, vs Winnipeg Oct. 12, 1992 (tied with 9 others)
Canucks - Most Exciting Player Award - 5 times (1992-1995, 1998)
Canucks - Molson Cup (most 3 star selections) 4 times (1992-1994, 1998)
Canucks - Cyclone Taylor Trophy (MVP) - 3 times (1993, 1994, 1998)
Canucks - Cyrus H. McLean Trophy (leading scorer) 4 times (1993-95, 1998)
Throw in the fact that Bure has played less than half the games in a Canucks jersey as other players among Canucks all time leaders, and the list of accolades is even more impressive. Be it with his prowess on the ice with Vancouver or his impact on the fan base, Bure is without a doubt one of the greatest players to ever play in Vancouver. Countless times he brought us out of our seats over the years. Next season on the night that #10 is raised to the rafters beside Smyl, Linden and Naslund, he'll do it one more time.
Congratulations on an honor well deserved Pavel, and on behalf of Canuck Nation, thank you.