When the Hockey Hall of Fame announced its 2012 inductees on Tuesday, it was a proud day for British Columbia. Burnaby native Joe Sakic made the list, as well as former Canucks Pavel Bure and Mats Sundin.
Technically, Mark Messier was the first Vancouver player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 2007, but his three seasons in Vancouver were the low watermark of his career. Sundin's tenure was even less significant—just 41 games and 28 points in his final year before retirement.
Bure, on the other hand, made his name as a Canuck.
He started his NHL career with the team in 1991 and created an instant buzz with his explosive skating and exciting style. Pavel scored 60 points in 65 games in his rookie season—good enough to earn him the Canucks' only Calder trophy in franchise history.
Bure played seven of his 12 NHL seasons in a Vancouver uniform, including his two most productive—back to back years of 60 goals and over 100 points in 1992-93 and 1993-94. He was also a key contributor to the 1994 playoff run.
His double-overtime goal against Calgary in Game 7 of the first round remains one of the most pivotal tallies in franchise history. Of his 64 playoff games, just four were played in a non-Vancouver uniform.
Bure remains fifth on the Canucks' all-time goal-scoring list with 254 goals in just 428 games. He's seventh on the points list with 478 and is the only player in the top thirty to average better than a point a game.
His overall NHL totals were 437 goals and 779 points in 702 games. He spent more than half his career with the Canucks and logged solid numbers all the way.
The International Ice Hockey Federation also inducted Bure into its own Hall of Fame after the World Championships in May. Yet despite the fact that hockey minds on both sides of the Atlantic have deemed Bure to have been one of the best of all time, the Canucks themselves have neglected to honor their most exciting player.
2012 marked the sixth time that Bure was eligible for HHOF induction, and Jason Botchford of The Province says it was likely his former coach Pat Quinn who had been blocking his induction up to this point but finally relented. Quinn is co-chairman of the Hall of Fame's selection committee.
Perhaps it's a sign that long-festering wounds are healing?
For all his talent and productivity, Bure's relationship with the Canucks was often acrimonious and a bit mysterious. Tony Gallagher of The Province sums up many of the key moments, concluding that the main issue was that Bure was never treated as well as he deserved.
It was like Pat Quinn and George McPhee thought he was a flash in the pan and that at any moment he would suddenly lose all his ability and be useless.
He was never treated as a star here, even though he was worth the price of admission every night and worth far in excess of players who were treated much better by the team.
The Canucks had never had a star of Bure's caliber on their team before, which might have been part of the problem. The challenges of dealing with Russian players, especially in those early days, likely made things worse. Gallagher claims that Bure often asked to be traded during his tenure with the Canucks. Ultimately, that led to his holdout in 1998, which forced his move to Florida.
Despite the frosty off-ice relations, Bure's achievements as a Canuck player are unparalleled. He's widely acknowledged to have been one of the most exciting players ever to suit up in the NHL, and his fan appeal is one of the reasons why the issue of his jersery retirement in Vancouver is still so hotly debated.
Bure was a huge part of the Canucks' early 90s success, and the revenue from those heady times is what helped build GM Place (now Rogers Arena) and begin the Canucks' transition from small-time outpost to the elite franchise that it is today.
The team pulled out all the stops to celebrate its 40th anniversary two years ago, yet an acknowledgement of Bure's contributions was strangely absent.
In light of these Hall of Fame inductions for arguably the best player ever to wear a Vancouver jersey, it's time for cooler heads to prevail and Bure's number 10 to be raised to the rafters next season.
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