Pavel Bure nearly destroyed my ability to enjoy hockey

Pavel Bure ruined me as a hockey fan.

I was seven-years-old when Bure made his debut with the Vancouver Canucks. I was nine when he scored the game-winning overtime goal in game seven against the Calgary Flames in the first round of the 1994 playoffs and led the team in scoring en route to the Stanley Cup Final. And I was fourteen when he was traded to the Florida Panthers.

Those were the primer years of my development as a hockey fan, the time when passions, loyalties, and expectations are defined for the rest of a person’s life. In those prime years, I watched Bure skate faster than seemed humanly possible, while controlling the puck with perfect precision and shooting with pinpoint accuracy. How could anyone else compare?

Canucks fans have been spoiled in recent generations. My generation had Bure, ensuring that the numerous speedsters with lesser hands that came after him would forever be judged for not being him. Then came Naslund, whose sublime wrist shot soured fans on the lesser snipers that followed.

Now, Canucks fans have the Sedins, whose style of hockey is entirely unique and impossible to duplicate. Young fans who are growing up with the Sedins as the offensive stars of the Canucks are bound to be disappointed when future top line forwards are unable to complete a simple backhand, cross-ice, tape-to-tape saucer pass over the sticks of four opposing players while being cross-checked to the ice by a fifth.

Bure was a once-in-a-generation talent, whose ability to stickhandle at top speed was unreal and whose desire to score goals was unmatched. Knowing that hockey can be played like that, with that speed, finesse, and passion, how can you not be disappointed when you see it played any other way?

Growing up, my friends and I loved the Canucks. We idolized Trevor Linden, loved Jyrki Lumme, and thought the world of Kirk McLean. My favourite player was Cliff Ronning, mainly because I was the shortest kid in my school and took inspiration from the pint-sized scorer. But Bure was the Canucks in the 90′s. To us, to the kids who loved nothing more than to see goals being scored, Bure was the team. He was the reason you watched the games.

Any kid who was lucky enough to get Bure in a pack of hockey cards crowed about it on the playground. We were jealous of the lucky few whose parents bought them official Bure jerseys. In NHL video games, where speed was everything, you would always get the puck to Bure when you were playing as the Canucks. Any moment that Gino Odjick or Dave Babych had the puck was excruciating, but as soon as Bure had the puck, a world of possibilities was opened.

Seeing Bure leave the Canucks was devastating. I knew very little of what was happening behind the scenes at the time, or even the parts of it that were being hashed out in public. During the 1994 playoff run, I was too busy explaining that my brother’s old Flying-V jersey “was so” a Canucks jersey to my classmates to worry about the rumours that Bure had apparently refused to play in the playoffs without a new contract. The disputes between Bure and Canucks management over the years never reached our ears; all we knew in the end was that Bure wasn’t playing and was demanding a trade.

Linden was already gone. McLean had faltered and been traded. My beloved Cliff Ronning had signed with the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996 and Jyrki Lumme followed his lead two seasons later. Now Bure was on his way out. The Canucks that my friends and I had grown up with were no more.

Bure ruined me as a hockey fan, but seeing his tenure with the Canucks also made me a more mature hockey fan. He made me realize how fleeting our time is with the players that come through the NHL and our favourite teams. At nine years old, I thought 1994 would happen every year, that Bure would go on flying and racking up goals for another decade or more with the Canucks. At the time, I couldn’t imagine that he would get just one more shot at the playoffs in Vancouver.

So now I appreciate what we have while it’s here. There will never be another Bure, but there will also never be another Daniel or Henrik Sedin. There will never be another Alex Burrows. There will never be another Roberto Luongo. Other players might come along with some superficial resemblance, but it won’t be the same.

Bure belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame and I’m happy to see him getting his due. In my opinion, he also deserves to see his number raised in Rogers Arena, but I’m just a kid who didn’t know what he had until it was gone.

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7 comments

  1. cathylu
    November 9, 2012

    As a new fan I didn’t live the history that you have but I make myself sad sometimes when I think about the Sedins retiring. I agree that there is no one like them. It’s hard for me to imagine a future Canucks team without them.

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  2. JS Topher
    November 9, 2012

    Beautifully written Daniel. You captured my emotions perfectly.

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  3. Marcus
    November 10, 2012

    This is disgusting. I expect more of Pass it to Bulis. “But Bure was the Canucks in the 90′s”?
    Are the 90s possessing something? I didn’t think so. It’s just 90s, no apostrophe, though you could get away (and some would even say it’s correct) with saying ’90s.
    Thank you for your time.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      November 10, 2012

      While there has been some dispute over this point, placing an apostrophe in between the year and the “s” when making a year plural is acceptable practice, particularly in North America. “90s” or “’90s” are both more common and even preferred by some grammar guides, but “90′s” is still allowed. Using the apostrophe to create a plural in non-standard instances such as numbers or single letters goes back a long, long time and the switch to taking the apostrophe out in such instances is actually relatively recent.

      You’re welcome for your time.

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      • Marcus
        November 10, 2012

        I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

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  4. biznow
    November 10, 2012

    I too was molded into the fan I am today during the Bure/Linden/McLean era. About 5-6 years ago, I was walking down the street in a Pavel Bure skate jersey. Not one, but two random vehicles took the time to slow down, unroll the window, and yell out “Bure sucks!”. One of them even threw a bag of McDonalds trash (which narrowly missed). I kept rocking that Bure jersey in spite of their apparent hatred. It is going to be sweet justice watching it raised to the rafters.

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  5. Kenji
    November 14, 2012

    I don’t believe that just because a great, Hall of Fame player wore the Canuck uniform that he should automatically get his number retired. I have not seen a groundswell of support for honouring Messier or Sundin in the rafters of Rogers Arena. Bure was an enigmatic figure before leaving the Canucks under a cloud of mutual ill feeling. Linden he was not.

    However, when you think of Bure it’s sure not as a Panther and especially not as a Ranger. Though not only a Canuck, he is strongly Canuck-identified and I think that should get him over the barrier.

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