'Russian Rocket' Pavel Bure was my hero


Writer’s hockey education began watching Bure work his magic

Pavel Bure’s rigorous preparation included skating with two parachutes strapped to his back for resistance.

Pavel Bure’s rigorous preparation included skating with two parachutes strapped to his back for resistance.

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Pavel Bure ruined me as a hockey fan.

I was seven years old when Bure made his debut with the Vancouver Canucks. I was nine when he scored the game-winning overtime goal in Game 7 against the Calgary Flames in the first round of the 1994 playoffs and led the team in scoring en route to the Stanley Cup Final. And I was 14 when he was traded to the Florida Panthers.

Those were the primer years of my development as a hockey fan, the time when passions, loyalties, and expectations are defined for the rest of a person’s life. In those prime years, I watched Bure skate faster than seemed humanly possible, while controlling the puck with perfect precision and shooting with pinpoint accuracy. How could anyone else compare?

Canucks fans have been spoiled in recent generations. My generation had Bure, ensuring that the numerous speedsters with lesser hands that came after him would forever be judged for not being him. Then came Naslund, whose sublime wrist shot soured fans on the lesser snipers that followed.

Now, Canucks fans have the Sedins, whose style of hockey is entirely unique and impossible to duplicate. Young fans who are growing up with the Sedins as the offensive stars of the Canucks are bound to be disappointed when future top line forwards are unable to complete a simple backhand, cross-ice, tape-to-tape saucer pass over the sticks of four opposing players while being cross-checked to the ice by a fifth.

Bure was a once-in-a-generation talent, whose ability to stickhandle at top speed was unreal and whose desire to score goals was unmatched. Knowing that hockey can be played like that, with that speed, finesse, and passion, how can you not be disappointed when you see it played any other way?

POLL: Should Canucks retire Bure’s No. 10 jersey?

PHOTOS: Pavel Bure through the years

Growing up, my friends and I loved the Canucks. We idolized Trevor Linden, loved Jyrki Lumme, and thought the world of Kirk McLean. My favourite player was Cliff Ronning, mainly because I was the shortest kid in my school and took inspiration from the pint-sized scorer. But Bure was the Canucks in the 90s. To us, to the kids who loved nothing more than to see goals being scored, Bure was the team. He was the reason you watched the games.

Any kid who was lucky enough to get Bure in a pack of hockey cards crowed about it on the playground. We were jealous of the lucky few whose parents bought them official Bure jerseys.

In NHL video games, where speed was everything, you would always get the puck to Bure when you were playing as the Canucks. Any moment that Gino Odjick or Dave Babych had the puck was excruciating, but as soon as Bure had the puck, a world of possibilities was opened.

Seeing Bure leave the Canucks was devastating. I knew very little of what was happening behind the scenes at the time, or even the parts of it that were being hashed out in public. During the 1994 playoff run, I was too busy explaining that my brother’s old Flying-V jersey “was so” a Canucks jersey to my classmates to worry about the rumours that Bure had apparently refused to play in the playoffs without a new contract. The disputes between Bure and Canucks management over the years never reached our ears; all we knew in the end was that Bure wasn’t playing and was demanding a trade.

Linden was already gone. McLean had faltered and been traded. My beloved Cliff Ronning had signed with the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996 and Jyrki Lumme followed his lead two seasons later. Now Bure was on his way out. The Canucks that my friends and I had grown up with were no more.

Bure ruined me as a hockey fan, but seeing his tenure with the Canucks also made me a more mature hockey fan.

He made me realize how fleeting our time is with the players that come through the NHL and our favourite teams.

At nine years old, I thought 1994 would happen every year, that Bure would go on flying and racking up goals for another decade or more with the Canucks. At the time, I couldn’t imagine that he would get just one more shot at the playoffs in Vancouver.

So now I appreciate what we have while it’s here. There will never be another Bure, but there will also never be another Daniel or Henrik Sedin.

There will never be another Alex Burrows. There will never be another Roberto Luongo. Other players might come along with some superficial resemblance, but it won’t be the same.

Bure belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame and I’m happy to see him getting his due. In my opinion, he also deserves to see his number raised in Rogers Arena, but I’m just a kid who didn’t know what he had until it was gone.

Daniel Wagner writes about hockey at vancouversun.com/passittobulis

Pavel Bure’s rigorous preparation included skating with two parachutes strapped to his back for resistance.

Pavel Bure’s rigorous preparation included skating with two parachutes strapped to his back for resistance.

Pavel Bure’s rigorous preparation included skating with two parachutes strapped to his back for resistance.
Canucks Markus Naslund (right) and Pavel Bure listen to the coaches at training camp.
Mark Messier and Pavel Bure model All Star jerseys in Chicago, January 12, 1998.
Pavel Bure was drafted 113th overall in 1989, much to the chagrin of opposing GMs.
There was an almighty battle on the part of aggrieved NHL teams after they thought the Vancouver Canucks had broke the rules by drafting Pavel Bure in the 1989 lottery. The Canucks, with the help of veteran Igor Larionov, managed to get the paperwork to prove Bure qualified to be theirs, and the rest was history for a buffed-up Bure and the Canucks.
Vancouver Canuck Superstar Pavel Bure reflects on life from his Point Grey home, between his 91/92 rookie of the year awards.
Canucks player Pavel Bure and coach Pat Quinn at press conference after 5 to 1 loss to New York Rangers in Stanley Cup playoffs taken June 4, 1994.
Former Vancouver Canucks defenceman Harold Snepsts (far right), in his ‘golden era’ Canucks uniform, joins first franchise captain Orland Kurtenbach (second from right) and then-Canuck stars Gino Odjick (far left) and Pavel Bure when the latter pair modelled the team’s then ‘new uniforms at their summer 1997 unveiling.
Vancouver Canucks player Pavel Bure arrives at the airport, welcomed by hundreds of fans during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Photo taken June 3, 1994.
MAY 26, 2005 -- Vancouver Canucks Jyrki Lumme (21), left, and teammates Pavel Bure (10) and celebrate at the end of game 6 of the Stanley Cup against the New York Rangers, June 11, 1994.
The Vancouver Canucks Pavel Bure walks out of the 8 Rinks Ice Complex after a skating session with other NHL players in Burnaby to a waiting crowd of reporters and autograph seekers.
All Star Canuck PAVEL BURE gets escorted out of G.M place by his mother Tanya Bure after the All Star game here Sunday afternoon.
PAVEL BURE arrives at Vancouver International Airport returning with a silver medal in men’s ice hockey.
Vancouver Canuck #96 Pavel Bure and Pittsburgh Penguin #66 Mario Lemieux get ready for action.
A1 front page of The Vancouver Sun for September 6, 1994 featuring shirtless Canucks player Pavel Bure being fitness tested.
Pavel Bure of the Florida Panthers, at one time a Canuck player, on the ice during practice for upcoming game against Canucks in October 2001.
Pavel Bure of the Vancouver Canucks at fireside in his home.
Hockey card of Pavel Bure from Collector’s Den.
Vancouver Canuck #96 Pavel Bure during warm up at GM Place.
Vancouver-Canuck star Pavel Bure during game with Edmonton Oilers.
Crispin Terry gets his picture taken with Vancouver Canuck superstar Pavel Bure during the Canucks Family carnival held at GM Place.
Pavel Bure at Canucks practice.
Former canuck Pavel Bure is back for his first game in GM Place as a Florida Panther in November 1999. He is sitting next to the Canucks logo on the wall of the press conference room talking to the media.
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