Gino Odjick spilled the beans to Jason Botchford of the Province a few days ago, Pavel Bure will indeed see his #10 jersey hang from the rafters. Apparently Francesco Aquilini will meet with Bure during his Hall of Fame induction on Monday.
First of all, congratulations to Pavel Bure. He is set to become the first true Vancouver Canuck player to make it to the Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s well deserved, he had a spectacular career with Vancouver, Florida and the Rangers. He was one of the game’s best pure goal scorers, and one of the most exciting players to ever play the game. Certainly he was the best pure goal scorer the Canucks have ever had and without a doubt their most exciting player of all-time.
But the decision to retire Pavel Bure’s number is wrong.
The biggest problem that I have with retiring Pavel Bure’s number has nothing to do with community service or signing autographs after the game. Those are extras, they’re bonus points that helped the case for Vancouver’s other three jersey retirements of Smyl, Linden and Naslund. No, my problem with Bure extends from the fact that I’m not a new fan of the team.
You see, I went to 10 games in 1998-99 and the rest I watched on TV or listened to on radio (for those of you reading this under the age of 20, get someone older to explain the radio thing). I sat through one of the worst years the Canucks have ever had, due in part to the fact that Pavel Bure was sitting at home, holding out, while under contract to the team. The Canucks finished the season with a 23-47-12 record, good for 3rd last in the NHL. Their record was even worse than the Nashville Predators, who were playing in their first season in the NHL. I watched Bill Muckalt get top 6 forward status, because Pavel was sitting at home. I watched it all, and I hated Pavel Bure for it. I wasn’t alone in my hatred for Pavel Bure either. He was booed considerably when he returned to Vancouver as a member of the Florida Panthers.
When Bure finally was dealt, he didn’t speak to the media apologizing to the Canucks fans or explain himself. He was very private, and that’s fine, but to do what he did without an explanation to the fans himself invited hate. At least Steve Francis explained himself before demanding out.
It should be said that Bure explained himself after the fact, to Tony Gallagher, who relayed the information to fans through his column. He explained a few those again in a recent column, and it should be said that the Canucks organization is not without blame in this saga. Gallagher contends that Bure’s issues extend from the first time he came to North America and lasted for years. Yet, he still decided to sign a long term contract with the team. If he was so unhappy, wouldn’t signing a long term deal seem like a curious decision? And given that he signed the long term deal, couldn’t he have waited one more season, become a free agent, and then hold out? If he had done that, and explained to the fans his decision, I would have been able to forgive and forget. But he didn’t, so I haven’t.
Raising Bure’s jersey to the rafters would be like doing that for Lebron James in Cleveland. Both were spectacular players for a short period of time at the beginning of their careers. Both led their teams to the finals. Lebron was a better player than Bure, and embarrassed the team on national television. Bure was quieter about his decision, but he also sat out while under contract (which Lebron didn’t do).
I sense that I am now in the minority on my feelings about Bure. Most have forgiven him, choosing to think about the good times (the 60 goal seasons, the 1994 playoff run, the highlight reel goals) and forget about how he left here. Perhaps one day the fans of Cleveland will do the same with Lebron.
Supporters of Bure will point to all of those good times as the reason he should join the Smyl, Linden and Naslund in the rafters, but I think some of those accolades have be exaggerated.
Ask a lot of people about the merits of Bure and the merits of Naslund, and they’ll tell you it’s not even close. On artistic merit, they’re right. But if you look at their numbers (at least in the regular season) and take into account the dead puck era, it’s a lot closer than you think.
Bure was never nominated for a Hart Trophy (MVP as chosen by the media) or the Pearson Trophy (MVP as chosen by the players). The years he scored 60 goals, he wasn’t even considered the best Russian in the league (Mogilny had a better year in 1992-93 and Fedorov had a better year in 1993-94). So he was an excellent player, but he wasn’t top 5 in the league. Meanwhile, Markus Naslund won a Pearson award and was a consistent scorer for more years than Bure. True, he never scored 50 in Vancouver, but I contend that a 50 goal season in the dead puck era should be considered on par with a 60 goal season in the early 90s. It was simply easier to score in 1992 than 2002.
My argument isn’t that Naslund had a better career than Bure, because he didn’t when you take into account Bure’s years in Florida, but Bure’s career with the Canucks is incomplete due to injuries and holdouts. For that reason, arguing that Bure should have his number retired because Naslund’s is, isn’t valid.
Bure had a great career, good for him. It’s too bad more of those years weren’t in Vancouver. He is 5th all-time in goals, 14th in assists and 7th in points. He holds the single season record for goals, but doesn’t for assists or points.
I don’t hate Pavel Bure anymore, but I’m not ready to honour him. He doesn’t deserve it.
With all of that being said, if Bure’s number is retired, nobody should boo him. My hate for him in back in 1998 is gone, but I simply can’t forget how he left this city. He was a great player, he is Hall-of-Fame worthy, but his jersey doesn’t belong in the rafters of Rogers Arena.
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