Pavel Bure should be No. 1 because no one was more exciting to watch

 

 
 
 
 
Who could forget Pavel Bure slipping the puck past Flames goalie Mike Vernon in double overtime in the seventh and deciding game of the 1993-94 Western Conference quarter-final?
 

Who could forget Pavel Bure slipping the puck past Flames goalie Mike Vernon in double overtime in the seventh and deciding game of the 1993-94 Western Conference quarter-final?

Photograph by: Dean Bicknell, Calgary Herald

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Pavel Bure is the greatest Canuck there ever was.

He is that because his first shift in Vancouver was 23 years ago and people can remember it like it happened in the last hour.

There were some 16,200 fans who saw him play that first game. It was so breathtaking, so remarkable, and so impressionable, hundreds of thousands more will tell you they were there, too. They say it because they want to own a piece of that moment, that history.

Pavel Bure is the greatest Canuck there ever was because, to this day, fans will regale you with stories of the first time they saw him practise. And when they tell you, their eyes will open up and train on you like sunflowers on the sun. Their speech will jump, speed up, get louder, and higher pitched in a “you gotta hear this” way.

Fans can remember where they were when they first saw Bure play like it was the moon landing. There is no Vancouver player who has approached that kind of impact and no other player exciting enough to be worth that kind of memory.

Pavel Bure is the best Canuck there ever was because during the 1994 run to the Stanley Cup final, he scored 16 goals. Wayne Gretzky did that in a posteason, too. But just once.

Bure’s 16 goals came in 24 playoff games. He was unstoppable. How many times have the Sedins been unstoppable in the playoffs? Heck, how many good playoff series has Henrik had?

Even in 2011, Henrik was stuffed against Nashville and shut down again by Boston. The Sedins had three good games against Chicago and did nothing in the final four. They had a good series against San Jose.

But 16 goals and 15 assists in 24 postseason games? There is only one Canuck who could do that. Ever.

Bure finished his career having played 60 playoff games. He scored 34 goals and 32 assists for 66 points. It’s been 99 playoff games for Henrik and 74 points.

And when, in those 1994 playoffs, the Dallas Stars were hacking, slashing and elbowing Bure, and cross-checking him in the neck, he took matters into his own hands. He knocked out Shane Churla with one of the biggest hits in Canucks history.

Pavel Bure is the greatest Canuck there ever was because he once scored 51 goals in a season and did it playing with a 37-year-old anchor named Mark Messier. As far as being a top-six centre goes, Messier was washed up. It didn’t matter for Bure. He still scored those 51 goals and did it for an awful team that won just 25 games in an awful season.

What would Bure have done if he’d spent his career with a star centre? What would he have done if he’d played his entire career on the same line as his twin brother? How many goals would Bure have, then?

Pavel Bure is the greatest Canuck there ever was because he is third in NHL history in goals-per-game, finishing his career with stats which look almost identical to Cam Neely’s. He was the greatest goal scorer of the 1990s not named Wayne Gretzky.

Pavel Bure is the greatest Canucks there ever was because he is the team’s only player in the Hockey Hall of Fame. And that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Yes, he butted heads with management. He felt disrespected when they didn’t pay him what he thought was just. But it didn’t bleed into his game. There, he left everything on the ice. His courage. His speed. His dominance.

People have let it cloud their judgment, that he wanted out. Will they do the same when they remember Roberto Luongo’s Canucks career?

There was no arrest. He didn’t dog it. He wanted a fresh start.

Of course, the ultimate test in these debates is a hypothetical hockey tournament. Let’s say, in this tournament, there was a team of five Trevor Lindens in his prime and a team of five Henrik Sedins from the 2010-12 era. If, in this tournament, those two teams played a team of five Pavel Bures, who would win then?

I’m pretty sure I know the answer.

And I’m pretty sure, with all those Pavel Bures, it wouldn’t be close.

jbotchford@theprovince.com

twitter.com/botchford

 
 
 
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Who could forget Pavel Bure slipping the puck past Flames goalie Mike Vernon in double overtime in the seventh and deciding game of the 1993-94 Western Conference quarter-final?
 

Who could forget Pavel Bure slipping the puck past Flames goalie Mike Vernon in double overtime in the seventh and deciding game of the 1993-94 Western Conference quarter-final?

Photograph by: Dean Bicknell, Calgary Herald

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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