Pavel Bure is finally inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame, unnecessary drama ensues

After 6 years of being snubbed by the induction committee, Pavel Bure is finally getting his due from the Hockey Hall of Fame. He joins Joe Sakic, Adam Oates, and Mats Sundin as the class of 2012, which makes me desperately hope that Bure’s portion of the ceremony comes before Sundin’s so that no one can say that Sundin was the first Canuck inducted into the HHOF on a technicality. Before you ask, Mark Messier never played for the Canucks; I don’t know who keeps spreading that myth, but it’s about time Snopes.com debunked it.

The Russian Rocket was one of the most thrilling players of his time, winning the franchise’s only Calder Trophy for rookie of the year and scoring 60 goals in each of his next two seasons, leading the league in goals in 1993-94. While the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals in a season had not yet been created at that time, he went on to win it twice with the Florida Panthers.

In the Canucks’ 1994 run to the Stanley Cup Final, Bure was spectacular, scoring 16 goals and 31 points in 24 games, including the double-overtime game 7 winner over the Calgary Flames in the first round. Bure is 7th all-time in points for the franchise, despite playing in less than half as many games as the players ahead of him other than Thomas Gradin in 6th.

Quite frankly, it’s about time that Bure was inducted, and it’s also about time that the Canucks retire his jersey, although Gillis has claimed that he has approached Bure about the subject in the past with Bure having no interest in participating in such a ceremony. Bure denies this, however. In an interview in the Spring 2012 edition of Puck Life Magazine, Bure, when asked about not having his jersey retired, “I am a practical person and I’d like to live in a real world, not in a fantasy land. No one from the Canucks had discussed such a thing with me, so it would inappropriate for me to even comment on it” and again shortly after, “No one from the Canucks has approached me.”

It’s possible that Gillis approached Bure about being in the Ring of Honour, which may have seemed, at best, like a backhanded compliment. Bure clarified in the interview that he still has fond memories of his time with the Canucks.

One thing’s for sure, I don’t get bitter about my time with the Canucks. On the contrary, I like to remember many good things there, like the 1994 run, winning the Calder Trophy, or that I was able to reach a 50-goal plateau in a season three times, or the Canucks fans who treated me really great. I try to focus on the positive side, not negative things.

There was a delay from the Canucks official twitter account and website in congratulating Bure, leading to quite the clamor online from some of our compatriots. While I understand their concerns, I don’t share them. My suspicion is that the person who normally runs the Canucks Twitter account is on vacation, as is much of their web staff. While it is certainly regrettable in this instantaneous day and age, I see this as an unfortunate inevitability of people taking time off for vacation, rather than some intentional snub. Imagining some overarching conspiracy against Bure that extends all the way to tweeting a congratulations to one of the best players to ever don a Canucks sweater is a little over the top.

If you’re upset by the seemingly cold, clinical nature of the Canucks’ official press release congratulating Bure and Sundin, then you haven’t read many of the Canucks’ official press releases. Press releases are essentially all that is running on Canucks.com right now, as they enter into the offseason. While some more personable and social-media-friendly material might come out of the Canucks prospect development camp, things are likely to be slow for a while.

The history of the acrimonious relationship between Bure and the Canucks is a long and complicated one and many of the principal players have yet to go on record regarding the situation. At this point, I find it hard to care. Bure was one of my favourite Canucks in the 90′s, surpassed only by my love for Trevor Linden and Cliff Ronning. At this point, that’s all I care to remember.

If, however, Bure chooses to be inducted into the HHOF as a Florida Panther or, heaven forbid, a New York Ranger, my interest in the rift between Bure and the Canucks will once more be picqued. Actually, that’s putting it mildly: if he doesn’t go into the Hall as a Canuck, I’ll flip a pool. Fortunately, I just purchased a small kiddie pool for my son, so it won’t be very difficult and won’t cause too much property damage.

Bure will be officially inducted into the HHOF in a ceremony on November 12th in Toronto.

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15 comments

  1. Chris B
    June 27, 2012

    I was at a game (it must have been in 1991?) with my friends when we were all in high school, sitting in literally the last row of the Pacific Coliseum, right under the Broadcast Gondola. There was a catwalk out over the section from the halls to the press box. Somebody walks by, and one of my friends goes – that’s Pavel Bure – it was the game where he was introduced to Vancouver (before suiting up). He stopped and waved down at us, all going nuts.

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  2. J21 (@Jyrki21)
    June 27, 2012

    I don’t believe players enter the HHoF “as” anything (like in baseball where they’re wearing a specific cap), so I don’t think Bure even has the choice to make.

    Re: jersey retirement. As I always say when this comes up, how many players who played as few seasons for a team as Bure did for the Canucks get their jersey retired? Forget the controversy and forget the holdout — I’m just talking about longevity here. It’s not very common for a guy who played only six seasons with a team to receive this honor (special cases like Ray Bourque’s illustrious time with the Quebec Nordiques franchise notwithstanding). Usually it means a few Cups were won if so (Patrick Roy). The one guy who comes to mind for me bucking this trend is Pat LaFontaine in Buffalo.

    Jersey retirements are not simply for players who are “really good at hockey”. (They already made millions in recognition of the latter.) They are for face-of-the-franchise types, whose number would look wrong on any other player. This is why Stan Smyl’s number is up there over far more talented players. I note that guys like Trevor Letowski and Brad May have worn #10 since Bure’s departure without too much bother.

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    • John in Marpole
      June 27, 2012

      I don’t understand why so many in the local press seem to think that election to the HHof = retiring a player’s number. Not all players in the hall have had their numbers retired, I’d wager that most haven’t.

      The Canuck organization uses number retirement as a tribute to the over-all contribution of the player to the team and the community. By that measure, Bure falls far short of deserving of that recognition.

      Bure most certainly deserves to be in the Ring of Honour. If he snubs that offer – which he has been reported to have done – then to hell with him if he hasn’t grown up enough to recognize that it is the fans of the team he is snubbing, not the management from years gone past with whom he has some legitimate issues.

      Retired numbers are a recognition of character. In my opinion, to date Bure has shown little of that quality in his dealing with the people of Vancouver, most certainly so when compared to people like Linden and Smyl.

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  3. jer
    June 27, 2012

    “The Canuck organization uses number retirement as a tribute to the over-all contribution of the player to the team and the community. By that measure, Bure falls far short of deserving of that recognition.”

    Is that criteria stated anywhere? Not trying to be snarky but I’m curious, because I certainly haven’t encountered anything like concensus in Vancovuer (or other NHL cities) in terms of what jersey retirement actually means.

    The closest I’ve found to a ‘universal’ meaning, is that you retire a jersey when it would just seem wrong to see anyone else wearing that number in that jersey again. Personally, that’s what I go by when making up my opinion. Certainly it takes into account what you mentioned – longevity, contribution to the team, what the player meant to the fans, talent, and more. To my mind, it would have always seemed wrong to see anyone else in #12 after Smyl, or in #16 after Trevor. Slightly less so for #19, but not by much.

    It’s *always* seemed wrong to me to see other players in #10 (although that ‘this feels wrong’ thing is mitigated somewhat by the fact that most players in #10 after Pavel wore a different jersey than he did most of his time here! :) ), and I’m certainly of the opinion that his jersey should be in the rafters. (And while there may not have been an uproar, it sure as hell bothered ME when shlubs like Letowski and May wore #10! :) )

    As to your suggestion that Pavel falls short on the “overall contribution to team and community” measure, I’d heartily disagree. No one single person contributed as much to turning the Canucks from a perennial joke into a respectable franchise as Pavel – competitively, financially, and just plain the respect we started to get around the league (a decent argument could be made for Pat Quinn over Pavel, but I’d stick to my guns in that argument. :) ). We had instant credibility, something no one – not even Stan or Trevor – were able to give us before. To say Pavel should be in the ring of honor alongside legends like Haaaarold IS a backhanded compliment and I agree with Gallagher (the one guy in the press who knew Pavel best) here – he’s right to decline.

    All that said, his idiot brother’s weird anti-Gillis vendetta sure isn’t helping.

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    • jer
      June 27, 2012

      Whoops – meant that to be a reply to John in Marpole’s comment – my bad!

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      • Amor de Cosmos
        June 27, 2012

        Bure was more than “just a good player,” he was an exceptional player, and would have been so on any team. On the Canucks, who’s squad until his arrival aspired to mediocrity at best, it was doubly so. Those of us in the Pacific Coliseum for his first game, will never forget him receiving the puck behind his own blueline, and taking off up ice like a Ferrari in heat on his first shift. I’d never seen a human being accelerate so quickly, nor heard an audible gasp from an entire auditorium since.

        Where this acrimony comes from I’ve no idea, but his entire time here was dogged by unsubstantiated rumours and gossip. Someone in the organisation didn’t like him that seems clear. Who, and why, less so. If you’re going to retire numbers though then Bure’s should have been one of the first. Even if he doesn’t show up for the ceremony, it should still be done. No one has come close to emulating what he did in Vancouver, and most likely never will.

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  4. Trevor
    June 27, 2012

    If they do retire Bure’s number, make it 96. We are running out of numbers in the 10-19 range.

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    • the real bob
      June 27, 2012

      yeah what if Jeff Tambellini comes back, it’d be pretty inconsiderate if they didn’t leave the 10 for him

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  5. Sam
    June 27, 2012

    Wasn’t Neely also inducted into the hall, making him the first Canuck?

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    • Daniel Wagner
      June 27, 2012

      Welp, my joke has been ruined.

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  6. SteveB
    June 27, 2012

    I will never forget Tom Larscheid’s shouted YES!!! as Pavel scored in OT against the Flames in game 7 .

    The most exciting Canuck, ever.

    It’s long past time to honour his contribution to the Vancouver Canucks.

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    • Rituro
      June 28, 2012

      Next up: Tom Larscheid in whatever halls of fame (plural) he’s eligible for, please.

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  7. iceman
    June 27, 2012

    It’s a never-ending debate for this town when it comes to the status of Pavel Bure in Canucks history. There seems to be mixed feelings everywhere depending on your main viewing angle on him: on the ice vs. off the ice, the breathtaking years till the 94’ cup run vs. the tainted years to the bitter end afterward, the brimming competitiveness & work ethic vs. paltry contribution to the community etc.

    But we can all agree on one thing – We’ll never see another hockey player as exciting as Bure for a very long time, more likely never again. To me it’s all that matters. With his electrifying plays the ice Bure gave this franchise a respect it never had before, and that alone deserves his jersey to be hanging on the rafters of Rogers Arena.

    And that’s also why I am so embarrassed about the way Canucks PR department dropped the ball on Bure’s HOF induction. First they let Florida go blowing horns all around about a former “Panther” getting into HHOF, and then reluctantly posted the news on the team’s website as ‘Former Vancouver Canucks Pavel Bure and Mats Sundin… ?’ Really? Are those two really comparable in terms of what they have done for this city and the fans? If Pavel was ticked off by the Canucks management before this will surely burn the bridge.

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  8. Sam
    June 27, 2012

    I do agree that there is more to a jersey retirement than just being great at hockey. If so, 12 and 16 would never be up there. Of the current jersies retired. I personally think that the only number that should be retired is 16.

    I think Smyl was a great player but to get a jersey retired, you need to be of a certain class of player which I do not think he met. Ring of honour player of course, but it seems we pre-maturely put up his number because our rafters were empty. Please note that I never watched him play.

    16 without question, despite not being a HHOF caliber player deserves to be up there as a lifetime acheivement award.

    I would argue Naslund should not be up there. He was a great player for the Canucks but never a legendary player (ex. not HHOF caliber). He did a lot for the community, but not as much as Linden. I would argue he falls just short. I mean, these three players are probably three of the worst players who have had jersey’s retired across the league right? Linden gets a pass because of everything he has meant to the organization. But Nazzy? Are we going to just retire good not great players?

    The problem is with having Smyl up there, we set the bar low and therefore Naslund got in. With Naslund in, it seems like the best player or each generation will go up. I will tell u right now that I will not tell my kids about seeing Naslund play.

    Now we get to number 10. I think that, without question, Bure should have his number retired. He is the best player the Canucks have ever had. And I would argue the only superstar we have ever had in his prime. I know Sedins have won major awards and Naslund was top 5 in scoring on a few occassions, but they never had the star status that Bure had. We had the guy everyone wanted to see. And we knew it from day one. He was exciting, aggresive, wore his heart of his sleeve and we got a game of winning the finals with him leading us. The fact that he is clearly HHOF caliber despite the relatively short career speaks to how amazing his peak was. People forget what he brought to the team. He made the team legitimate and a team that people wanted to see. I mean look at the past 20 years. The Canucks, although not having won a Cup, have been pretty successful. Linden was a solider but it really changed when Pavel joined the team. We finally had a star.

    I think it is a slap to his face to be in the ring of honour. He is the best player we have ever had and we are saying he isn’t good enough to have his number retired. Sigh. Yes, his career with the Canucks wasn’t long. But he had a career worthy of the HOF and he is most identified wearing our jersey. This isn’t enough? And I think that the Canucks are ignoring my geneartion of Canucks fans. People who were kids when Bure first entered the league. He is the reason I began to watch hockey. I know people will say I am a hypocrit for saying Nazzy is out and Bure is in considering the stat comparison, but Nazzy is not in the same league as Bure. Bure is HHOF caliber. Nazzy is not. He did more as a Canuck but only due to games played.

    And yes. He demanded a trade. But no one knows the full story there other than the principles. But what I think we can assume is that Canucks did not treat him as he should (i.e. as a star and the face of the franchise) so the Canucks should take part of the blame. Why should the team now use that against him to also prevent him from being honoured? I know my friends who are of my geneartion all think he deserves one more night where we can stand and applaud the man who brought the Canucks into the big leagues. And who, to many in Vancouver, is their favorite player of all time.

    Sorry for the ramble.

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    • KB
      June 28, 2012

      Your observations are right on the money.

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