The Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure
Pavel Bure began playing hockey at the age of 16, representing the Soviet Red Army Team. The Russian Rocket was the nickname given to him due to the tremendous speed and skill with which he played the game.
He was picked 113th overall in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks. November 5, 1991 saw the debut of No. 10 against the Winnipeg Jets. On that first shift, the Russian took the puck in his own zone and went through the Jets team to get a good scoring chance.
There wasn't a goal on that shift, or even in the entire game for that matter. However, Bure gave the people a little taste of things to come. Racking up 60 points (34g, 26a) in 65 games that year, Pavel won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the rookie of the year.
Next season, he registered 110 points (60g, 50a), and 107 points (60g, 47a) the following. "Sophomore slump" wasn't a part of his vocabulary, I guess. This kid was the real deal.
In the 1993-1994 season (in which he totaled 107 points in the regular season), Bure led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals.
It appeared as though Vancouver was going to get burned in the first round against the Calgary Flames. Down 3-1 in best-of-seven series, the Canucks stormed back to force a seventh game. Overtime was needed, and the Russian Rocket came to life once again.
Bure got a breakaway on Mike Vernon, faked backhand, went forehand, and won the series for the Canucks. Sadly, Vancouver lost the Cup Final to the New York Rangers in seven games. Pavel did all he could, racking up 31 points (16g, 15a) in 24 playoff games, but it wasn't enough.
Injuries in the next three seasons slowed the Russian down a bit, but in the 1997-1998 season the world saw the greatness return. Bure played the whole season, putting up 90 points (51g, 39a).
It was his last season in the orange and black. Refusing to play any longer with Vancouver, the Russian Rocket was traded to the Florida Panthers on January 17, 1999.
From the cold streets of Moscow, to the warm beaches of Miami, Bure seemed to have it all. Florida felt the heat in Pavel's first two seasons. He scored 58 goals (1999-2000), and 59 goals (2000-2001), capturing the Rocket Richard Trophy on each occasion.
The old injury bug returned for him the next season, limiting him to 56 games. He managed 49 points (22g, 27a), but it was his last year as a Panther.
Bure made the move to Broadway with the New York Rangers for the last two years of his career. Only 51 games were played in those two seasons, but he still put up nearly a point per game.
With six All-Star Game appearances, two Rocket Richard Trophies, and a Calder Memorial, the Russian Rocket made his mark in the time he was given. Without injuries, God only knows how much longer Bure could have dominated the league. It's a shame too, because the post-lockout NHL is built for a player exactly like the Russian Rocket.
Still, he left us with plenty of highlight reel goals, pretty dangles, and speedy rushes to remember. Bure dazzled us from the first time he stepped onto an NHL rink, and won't be forgotten anytime soon.
Why isn't his number retired in the Canucks' organization? Why hasn't he been inducted to the Hall of Fame?
Who knows. But they can't ignore his name forever.
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