The flashiest and most talented player in Canucks history, Pavel Bure (aka “The Russian Rocket”), could see his number in the rafters of Rogers Arena, according to the Backhand Shelf.
Pavel Bure drew up as much attraction as the likes of Alexei Kovalev, Alexander Mogilny, Sergei Fedorov and other speedy scoring snipers in the early 1990s. Posting two 60 goal seasons and one 50+ goal season with the Canucks, The Russian Rocket led the team’s offense well enough to bring them to within one game of a Stanley Cup in 1994 alongside fan favourite Trevor Linden.
After a bitter relationship with team ownership in the late 1990s, Bure demanded to be traded away. In 1999, he would leave Vancouver to go from one of the most beloved players, to one that would never be welcomed back – a situation much more drastic than any Schneider-Luongo ‘controversy’ could be.
When Francesco Aquilini took over the Canucks as sole team owner in 2007, big changes were being made – new jerseys and marketing, and the introduction of Mike Gillis as GM. The result? Two Presidents’ Trophies and the elevation of the Canucks into perennial cup contenders.
Aquilini also made sure to bring Bure back into the fold.
After attending the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Bure in 2012, Aquilini began building the bridge back up between him and the Canucks organization. This success was shown on Thursday, April 4, when Bure returned to Vancouver to attend a Lions Club benefit for Aquilini and his work with charities. While here, Canucks fans also got to be re-introduced.
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Now that Bure is back in the fold, reporters were quick to ask: will we see number 10 (or heck, number 96) retired?
Aquilini hinted at such an event in this quote from Thursday:
“This is something we’re going to work on and definitely it’s in the plans. We think that Pavel is going to be a great addition to all the members who are retired up there. He’s such a great guy and he’s such an exciting player. You could see the fans. The standing ovation went on for at least five minutes.”
Does Bure deserve jersey retirement?
The debate on whether or not Bure is deserving of number retirement is a fair one to have. After all, the act signifies a player as a legend in team history, recognizing them as so important to the franchise that no other player could be worthy of wearing their number.
Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden and Markus Naslund are all players who excited fans, single-handedly won games and contributed to the extended success of the franchise. Pavel Bure did all of these things, so many would consider it obvious that the Russian would receive the same treatment.
On the other hand, contributions to the community off the ice weigh just as heavily in the decision of retiring a players jersey and Pavel Bure simply doesn’t hold a candle to what Smyl, Linden and Naslund did for Vancouver.
Was Bure treated fairly in Vancouver?
Taking this into mind, we could be quick to dismiss Bure of receiving the honour that those three players did, but neither of them were treated as second-rate members of the organization. On many occasions Canucks ownership mistreated Bure, who was a foreigner from beyond the Iron Curtain who needed help in acclimating to living in Canada, and had no fellow Russians on the team.
When Bure fled to North America to play for the Canucks, management left him in California for two weeks before meeting him to sign a contract, when Brian Burke was sent down. The contract ($600,000 CAD, which would be around $1 million today) was for less than initially agreed upon, and he was told he would get what he deserved if he proved himself on the ice.
The situation was so poor for Bure that he requested a trade in the 1993-94 season, until he was finally given an all-star contract. Even then, Bure was given the short stick.
NHL contracts are normally signed with the intent that players receive pay in U.S. dollars, but Bure was pushed to accept a five year $14.7 million contract (similar to that of stars Sergei Fedorov and Alex Mogilny), but in Canadian dollars. After many similar disputes, trade requests and media attacks, one would think that the player would never want to be associated with a Canucks franchise that handled him like this.
But his visit to the Canucks organization this week could be because of a few friendly faces in town, leading to an inevitable retirement of number 10.
Bure fired his agent after the various disputes in the 90s, and hired a new one who delivered the forward over $1 million in lost pay from the Canucks.
That agent? Mike Gillis.
If anything, we should wonder when, not if, Bure’s retirement ceremony will occur. For now, let’s enjoy some of the best moments the Russian Rocket brought to this city.