Pavel Bure may never have won a Stanley Cup or Hart Trophy, but the Russian forward was the most electric scorer of his generation.
Bure helped reinvigorate a fan base in Vancouver with game-breaking speed and dynamic playmaking ability that was unmatched during his seven seasons with the club.
The Russian Rocket offered a vast array of highlight-reel plays during his 12 NHL seasons, during which he averaged 36.7 goals per season, including two 60-goal campaigns.
In part three of our four-part series highlighting the 2012 Hall of Fame class, we take a look back at Bure’s brilliant career.
1. He was great right from the start.
A six-year-old Bure did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps in the swimming pool and began to focus on hockey. He joined a hockey school sponsored by CSKA Moscow. By age 11, he was the top forward in his league; when he was 12, Bure was chosen to take part in a television special along with Wayne Gretzky and legendary Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak.
2. He played on a legendary Soviet club.
When he was 16, Bure was too inexperienced to become a full-time player for the dominant Central Red Army squad. He joined the parent club, CSKA Moscow, in 1988-89, where he played with future NHL all-stars Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Slava Fetisov and Alexander Mogilny. Bure set a Soviet League record in his first season, scoring 17 goals, and was named Rookie of the Year.
3. He’s one of the all-time great draft steals.
Bure was selected in the sixth round (113th overall) by Vancouver in 1989 in one of the most controversial picks in the history of the NHL draft. Canucks head scout Mike Penny determined that the 18-year-old had played in enough games to be eligible for a late-round selection. Several teams were pursuing Bure out of Russia but didn’t believe he was available at that time. It took an entire year for the draft pick to become legitimate after it was briefly deemed illegal by the NHL.
4. Bure restored hope in the Pacific Northwest.
After tough negotiations to get Bure out of Moscow, the Canucks were able to sign their prized prospect. His first practice was attended by approximately 2,000 fans in Vancouver, and his arrival brought hope back to a franchise that was “basically going out of business,” former Canucks coach Pat Quinn told ESPN.com. The Canucks needed a player to build around, and there couldn’t have been someone more suited for that role than the electric Bure.
5. The rookie took the NHL by storm.
In his first NHL season, Bure finished with 34 goals and 60 points in 65 games to edge out future Hall of Fame defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom for the Calder Trophy. He followed his outstanding rookie campaign with back-to-back 60-goal seasons and racked up a total of 217 points in that span. Bure set a Canucks franchise record for goals in a season and became the first player in club history to be named a first-team all-star.
“He made us be a much more complete team and helped us make the playoffs and Stanley Cup finals,” Quinn said. “He was the impetus that pushed us to the top.”
6. He was a Game 7 hero.
With the Canucks, Bure experienced most of his best moments during the regular season. Bure led the league in scoring in 1993-94, but his biggest goal set up a special run for the city of Vancouver. Bure helped the Canucks overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Calgary Flames by scoring the spectacular winning goal of the best-of-seven series in double-overtime of Game 7.
7. Bure had a flair for the dramatic.
Bure quickly became one of the league’s most popular players because of his exciting style. While Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier were better all-around players, Bure had a significant amount of highlight-reel plays, including this memorable off-the-skate goal.
8. He had an unbelievable showing in Nagano.
The Russian forward rose to the highest level during international play. While Russia didn’t win the gold medal at Nagano 1998, Bure had arguably the best performance of the tournament with five goals against Finland in a 7-4 victory for Russia in the semifinal. Finland was one of the stronger squads at the Olympic Games, but it simply couldn’t contain the Russian Rocket.
9. Bure dominated the 2000 All-Star Game.
Bure was the shining star at the 2000 All-Star Game in Toronto, putting on a dazzling display at the newly built Air Canada Centre. He recorded three goals and four points, two of which were assisted by brother Valeri, leading Team World to a 9-4 victory over North America. Bure was named the game’s MVP.
10. He had a crazy workout regimen.
Bure didn’t just inherit his explosiveness and head-spinning speed. He had a crazy training regimen, something that he developed with his father, Vladimir, who was an Olympic swimmer for the Soviet Union. Gino Odjick, Bure’s teammate in Vancouver, told ESPN.com that Bure would regularly begin his workouts at 4 a.m. with a five-kilometre run, followed by sprints.
“It wasn’t something that happened by fluke,” Odjick told ESPN.com. “(Vlad) had a plan from the beginning to make them the best hockey players possible. Mission accomplished.”
11. He infamously delivered a cheap shot to Shane Churla.
While Bure is known for his offensive game, one of his most famous plays is a nasty hit to Dallas Stars defenceman Shane Churla in 1994. Bure received a suspension after elbowing Churla in the open ice and was fined $500 by then-Canucks GM Brian Burke.
12. His brilliant career was cut short.
Bure could’ve had a much longer career if it wasn’t for his history of knee problems. Trouble started in November 1995, when he tore the ACL in his right knee. It became a major problem once again when Bure ended up in New York with the Rangers; he re-injured his knee during a preseason game in 2002 and was never the same player. He missed the entire 2003-04 season after undergoing surgery and never returned to the NHL.
“When I got to the Rangers I hurt my knee a couple of times and I did a couple of little surgeries, and they basically told me I had no more ACL,” Bure told NHL.com. “I don’t want to be in a wheelchair. I wanted to be able to walk.”