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The Russian Rocket Flies to the Rafters

Let’s all agree that Pavel Bure is the most entertaining sports personality in Vancouver’s history. You can argue his heart was only in it for about four of the seven years he played for the Vancouver Canucks, but he still managed to astound viewers with his speed, creativity and undeniable skill. He was a superstar, one that captivated a hockey market that was desperate for a highlight reel phenom.

Last week the Vancouver Canucks organization honoured Bure’s gift to our city by retiring his number ‘10′ jersey to the rafters of Rogers Arena, the highest honour possible for a player in professional sports. Bure, along with his mother and his wife (who threatened to steal the show with her choice of dress) were joined at centre ice by the Aquilini family, Mike Gillis, Pat Quinn and Bure’s longtime friend and teammate Gino Odjick. Jim Hughston, was the MC for the ceremony and kept the proceedings moving at a nice pace.

When the jersey was finally lifted, there were less tears than the Linden ceremony, but a definite communal feeling of ‘if only he had stayed and remained healthy.’

Despite that melancholy feeling, Vancouver Canuck fans will always the memories of Bure’s magical performances on ice. Here are a two of our favourite Russian Rocket blasts:

  • We’ll start with a personal recount of his jaw-dropping goal against the Boston Bruins in the 1996-97 preseason: “My friends and I had purchased ‘Ice Packs’ for the Canucks 96-97 season in order to secure tickets to The World Cup of Hockey game been played in Vancouver on August 29th. That game was amazing! Unfortunately, the Canadian team went on to place second in the tournament behind the United States. Our Ice Packs however, included, I believe, eight regular season games and two preseason tilts. One of the preseason games was against Boston. On September 25th, we took our seats in the nosebleeds of GM Place (now Rogers Arena), unaware that we were about to watch history in the making. On a penalty kill, Bure received an errant pass from Adam Oates that slipped by Ray Bourque at the Canucks Blue line. Bure gained control of the puck just over the centre ice line and was at full speed by the time he crossed Boston’s blue line. At the harsh marks he started his cut across the ice, still at full speed. What we saw in those next few seconds was a blur of skate, puck and stick. The puck was already in the net before any of us knew what had happened. It was only after watching the replay on the jumbotron that we recognized what we had seen (or not seen) firsthand. Bure had faked the Boston goalie, Scott Bailey, by passing the puck back to his skate and then kicked it back to his stick. It was a thing of beauty that happened so fast it needed multiple replays to fully comprehend.

  • “This is the greatest moment in Vancouver Canucks history,” was the cry from colour commentator Tom Larscheid after Bure streaked in, deked and put the puck past Mike Vernon in double overtime of game seven against the Calgary Flames in 1994. It was a beautiful goal. The rocket may have been offside by a few inches, but what ref would ever call that in a game seven. Almost as beautiful as the goal, was Bure’s boyish celebration.  He tossed his gloves and stick to the side and threw himself into his teammates, arms stretched as wide as his smile. It was pure magic. Goosebumps…

Giving Pavel Bure his due was difficult for many fans who still, to this day, have bitter feelings about the way the Russian star left the organization. But when reliving those goals and the personal moments of pure joy they provided, it’s hard to raise an argument for not including Bure in the franchise’s highest rafters.

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