We wish to thank the Hockey Hall of Fame for finally having the good sense to induct one Pavel Bure, saving us from our annual righteous rant in support of the Russian Rocket, easily the Vancouver Canucks’ most dynamic player ever and, arguably, the most entertaining player of his generation. If you wish to be enlightened further, please consult our archives.
And while his selection is most overdue, in the end, there are no levels of HHOF membership - all players enshrined are on equal footing. And make no mistake, Bure belongs. As a second generation Russian superstar, he was a pioneer for his countrymen at the NHL level, where he was simply the most electrifying player since Guy Lafleur and Bobby Orr. And like Orr, his knees couldn’t endure the full tilt of his playing style - his longevity being perhaps the only legitimate beef against his induction. And while some may question his character upon exiting Vancouver, there are two sides to every story, but Bure’s is rarely told. In the end, he scored and entertained everywhere he went, excelling both professionally and internationally. For a brief moment in time, he was the most captivating player of his sport.
Joining Bure in today’s inductions were Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin. It seems that the HHOF is finally getting over its obsession with Stanley Cup winning players with Sakic being the only of this year’s inductees to have sipped from the cherished cup. And rightfully so, in the modern day 30 team NHL, there will be plenty of elite players who may never become champions. Indeed, in the era of the six team NHL, Cup rings may have meant something, but that notion is now prehistoric. And with the inclusion of Sundin and Bure, it seems that the HHOF is also getting over its bias against European players, which makes perfect sense since it is the “Hockey” Hall of Fame and not the “NHL” Hall of Fame.
With Bure’s induction, the Canucks once again find themselves with egg on their face as it relates to their franchise’s first and best superstar. How can the team’s only bonafide Hall of Famer (sorry, Mark Messier and Mats Sundin don’t count) not have his number hanging from the rafters while the likes of career plumber Stan Smyl is so enshrined? Some sources may say that Bure has been offered such an honour (or at least inclusion in the lower tiered Ring of Honour), but has refused. This is entirely possible, but also irrelevant. The hanging of a number from the rafters is much less about awarding the player, but recognizing his impact to the franchise and its fans. Yes, Pavel wasn’t necessarily the model community citizen, but he put the Vancouver franchise on the sporting map, making himself and his team an international brand. Stan Smyl or Trevor Linden or Markus Naslund could never have done that. And if the Canucks had retired his number (even without him attending the ceremony) before he had entered the hall, they would have looked a whole lot better than they do now, where any official acknowledgement of his career will look like after the fact pandering.
The irony of all this, of course, is that Pavel’s induction was announced by Pat Quinn, whom Pavel has now claimed as a father like figure, but was possibly part of the reason for Bure’s requested exit from Vancouver. Meanwhile, here in Vancouver, current President and General Manager Mike Gillis (Bure’s former agent) issued a very brief press release jointly recognizing Bure and Sundin, who played only half a season here in what was easily Gillis’ strangest move…