Throughout his 12-year career Pavel Bure was one of the most exciting players to step on an NHL rink, while few players in the history of the game were as prolific at filling the net as the Russian Rocket.
Even the shifts that he didn't score on were something to behold.
On Monday, he will officially take his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame alongside the rest of the game's greatest players as part of an induction class that also includes Joe Sakic, Adam Oates, and Mats Sundin. He is also expected to receive another honor when the Vancouver Canucks, the team that drafted him and saw him become a superstar in the NHL, will retire his No. 10.
One of Bure's former teammates and longtime friends, Gino Odjick, told Jason Botchford of the Province that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini will travel across the continent this weekend and inform Bure of the honor.
From the Province:
“Francesco called him with some really good news,” said Gino Odjick, who is in Florida with Bure, his life-long friend. “He is extremely happy about it. It was touching, to have an owner that's involved and recognizes he's the first player with the Canucks to enter the Hall of Fame. For him to fly from Vancouver makes this a really great week, I tell you. Francesco has been talking about [retiring his jersey] for quite a while. I don't see it not happening.”
Bure, a sixth-round pick by the Canucks during the 1989 draft, spent the first seven years of his career in Vancouver and is still to this day arguably the best player in franchise history.
In just 428 games with the Canucks, Bure scored 254 goals (and also recorded 224 assists) between the 1991-92 and 1997-98 seasons. That total was good enough for seventh best in the NHL over that stretch despite the fact that he played 65 or fewer games four times. In one season, the 1995-96 campaign, he appeared in just 15 games. If you look at it in terms of goals per game, he was fifth in the NHL behind only Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, Teemu Selanne and Eric Lindros. Had his career not been cut short by injuries Bure would have made a serious push for 600 career goals
But while he was a dominant, electrifying player on the ice, Botchford notes there will be some disagreement about the decision to put his number in the rafters. The reason stems from the way Bure forced his way out of Vancouver when he felt as if he was lied to. Another reason --Bure felt he was "never be loved enough" by some fans because he was always a private person who didn't make himself visible in the community.
As long as the Canucks are going to retire numbers (they've already retired Stan Smyl's No. 12, Trevor Linden's No. 16, and Markus Naslund's No. 19) there doesn't seem to be any justifiable reason to not put Bure's up there alongside them. No player in franchise history was more talented, exciting or productive as Bure.
But here's another question: Do retired numbers really mean anything to you as a fan?
What is the significance? Does another player wearing the same number as a legend really take away from that player's impact or status within the history of the franchise, or ruin what that player accomplished?
It is, after all, just a number. Back in the Original Six days, numbers were often handed out based on a players sleeping assignment on the train during road trips (as Jeff Veillette pointed out back in October, this is why Gordie Howe switched to No. 9 -- the No. 9 bunk was made available after Roy Conarcher was traded to Chicago). To use another sport as an example, the New York Yankees introduced numbers on their uniforms to reflect their batting order, which is why Babe Ruth wore No. 3 and why Lou Gehrig wore No. 4.
Other Canucks have worn the No. 10 since Bure left Vancouver -- most recently by Jeff Tambellini, of all people, in 2011. I can't imagine many Canucks fans looked at that and shook their heads in disgust, or had a tarnished opinion of Bure.
I've always been a fan of the way the Toronto Maple Leafs "honor" numbers and place them in the rafters, but continue to allow other players to wear them.