Today the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted four more players: Ed Belfour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe. As always, the inductees are quickly praised before the hockey world debates who should have been inducted, but wasn’t. And for another year, the Pavel Bure argument has gained more momentum.
The hall of fame is filled with a lot of players who don’t deserve to be there (look no further than Dick Duff and his 572 career points in 1030 games), but that’s not why I think Pavel Bure deserves to be in the hall. If we used Dick Duff’s numbers as the barometer to get in the hall of fame, Tony Tanti would be a slam dunk choice as well.
No, Pavel Bure deserves to get into the hall of fame because he was one of the very best players in the game for a significant length of time. In my mind, that is the most important factor for gaining entry. At the moment, longevity gets way too much consideration for why a player should or should not gain entry to the hall. If a player has eight 50 goal seasons (400 goals), isn’t that a lot more impressive than a player that has fifteen 30 goal seasons (450 goals)? I think so, but apparently those that get a vote in the hall of fame disagree.
Pavel Bure had 779 points in 702 career games, including seasons in which he scored 60 (twice), 59, 58 and 51 goals. He led the league in goals three times. He was named to the first all-star team (1994), the second all-star team (2000 and 2001) and was named the best forward in the Olympics (1998). Bure didn’t play for a lot of great teams, but he still managed to excel in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He had 70 points in 64 career playoff games. So clearly Pavel Bure was one of the very best players in the game for a significant period of time.
Bure’s numbers are even more impressive when you consider the era in which he played. This is not Bernie Nicholls scoring 70 goals in 1988-89 while receiving passes from Wayne Gretzky and still finishing second in goal scoring by 15 goals. Pavel Bure scored 58 goals in 1999-00, 14 more than any other player in the league, while connecting on passes from the likes of Ray Whitney and Viktor Kozlov.
In case you need further convincing, consider that Bure has more points in fewer games than Cam Neely (Neely was inducted into the hall of fame in 2005). Neely has more playoff points, but only because he played more games. Bure did almost all of his damage playing with players that wouldn’t be considered perennial all-stars. Neely was a great player, but he was also helped out by playing with one of the best playmaking centres of all-time in Adam Oates. Bure’s play in international tournaments dwarfs Neely’s also, and they both ended their careers with the same number of Stanley Cups (zero).
If Pavel Bure played six more seasons as a third liner and put up meager point totals, he would be closer to the hall of fame, and that’s just wrong. If we consider Bobby Orr’s career in the 1970s (915 points in 657 games) a better career than Paul Coffey’s career in the high scoring 1980s (1531 points in 1409 games), then surely there is room for Pavel Bure’s short, but spectacular career.
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