Above the 49: Canucks must honor Hockey Hall of Famer Bure
By Daniel Fung, Sports Network Columnist
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - Pavel Bure's departure from the Vancouver Canucks organization back in 1999 may have been an acrimonious one, but the announcement Tuesday of him being a part of the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame Class has been a reason to rejoice for the long-suffering fans of the NHL club.
For many, Bure's induction serves somewhat as vindication for a franchise that is about to enter its 42nd year in the league and is still searching for its first Stanley Cup championship and, up until the last couple of seasons, has had very little to celebrate in terms of team or individual success.
Although Bure is not the first former Canuck to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame, he is the first to do so having made his greatest impact as an NHL player while donning a Vancouver uniform and was - and arguably still is - the biggest superstar ever produced by the organization. He's still regarded as the most exciting player to ever play for the team.
Drafted in the sixth round (113th overall) by the Canucks in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Bure joined the team during the 1991-92 season and subsequently became the first Canuck to earn a major NHL award after capturing the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year.
He went on to lead the team in goals in five of his seven seasons in Vancouver - he reached the 60-goal mark twice which still stands as a single-season team record - and in points in four of his seven seasons.
He was also an instrumental figure in the team's run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994, which ended in a Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers. That trip to the Cup Finals was the only one of Bure's NHL career - a career which came to an end following the 2002-03 season, coincidentally with those same Rangers after his chronically injured knee forced him out of the game.
Despite the fact Bure's tenure in Vancouver was often marred by injuries and unsubstantiated rumors, including one in which he allegedly threatened to sit out a game during the 1994 playoffs because of a contract dispute, the "Russian Rocket" remained a popular figure among the fan base even after he forced a trade to the Florida Panthers by sitting out the first half of the 1998-99 season.
Today, Bure paraphernalia remains popular at Canucks games with jerseys and T- shirts bearing his name not out of place among the popular contemporaries such as the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler.
Now that Bure has been recognized with hockey's highest honor, the big question now is what, if anything, the club intends to do to recognize Bure in their own right - something that has been a contentious issue for years among the fans, but seemingly even more so among the various management and ownership groups the team has had since Bure's departure.
Bure continues to be a significant part of the club's marketing and branding. His infamous double overtime goal against Calgary's Mike Vernon in Game 7 of the 1994 Western Conference quarterfinals is a scene that is replayed countless times as part of the game presentation.
Beyond that, however, the club has failed to recognize Bure in any significant fashion.
Bure's popular No. 10 - which has been worn by several journeyman players since his departure including current Rogers Sportsnet hockey analyst Brad May - does not hang from the rafters at Rogers Arena nor does his name adorn the Ring of Honour, which was put in place at the start of the 2010-11 season and currently features four members, including the team's original captain, Orland Kurtenbach.
But if the fans in Vancouver have long since forgotten and forgiven and are more than ready to embrace Bure especially now in light of his Hockey Hall of Fame induction, it seems appropriate that the club do the same ideally by having his No. 10 join go up alongside Stan Smyl's No. 12, Trevor Linden's No. 16 and Markus Naslund's No. 19.
After all, Bure is the one who truly put the Canucks on the map first when he broke into the NHL back in the early 1990s and he's doing it all over again two decades later in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
06/27 11:33:17 ET