Pavel Bure's number to be retired - it's the right thing

Patrick Johnston
April 06 2013 04:07PM

So it's going to happen. Number ten will finally hang from the rafters.

After years of haranguing over the Russian Rocket's departure from Vancouver in 1999, everything is forgotten.

Pavel is loved, Pavel is remembered for the greatness that he was, Pavel is going to be the best. Officially.

It's the right thing to do.

The Province's Jason Botchford figures that the ovation Bure received on Thursday night was the final confirmation needed. The fans adore Pavel and couldn't care less that he forced his way out of town, a decade and a half ago.

When the owner says things like this, it's hard not to read between the lines:

Speaking publicly for the first time about Bure, Aquilini stopped short of making his jersey retirement announcement Friday.

But, like Bure when he met with the Vancouver media Thursday, he wasn’t hiding from it.

“This is something we’re going to work on and definitely it’s in the plans,” Aquilini revealed. “We think that Pavel is going to be a great addition to all the members who are retired up there.

“He’s such a great guy and he’s such an exciting player. You could see the fans. The standing ovation went on for at least five minutes.”

Five minutes is a big of an exaggeration, but the point is right; there was no hesistation from the fans. Bure's acknowledgement of the ovation grew with enthusiasm and pushed him to tears. Clearly, it was confirmation of what Bure had always insisted, that his beef never was with the fans. To see that they understood, for a man who's always been known for his privacy, was deeply revealing for him. 

One wonders if he was wondering, 'why have I not been back sooner?'

In any case, he's back. 

This is the greatest player to have laced on skates in Vancouver. Since his departure, the Canucks have been blessed with a series of stars, but for all the wonder they've given us, Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi, the Sedins, none have ever quite reached the stature of Bure. 

Those players all had their moments of controlling a game, to push it under their will, but none of them did it from beginning to end like Bure. Bure, as has been replayed so often, may not have scored in his first game in the NHL, but he didn't have to. He could do things that had never before been conceived of in this town.

When he was at his prime - which means throwing out the 1996-97 season in particular - Bure would turn a game on his head at a moment's notice. The Sedins have come closest to this ability - Naslund and Bertuzzi aren't far behind - but Bure's electricity tilts everything to his advantage. Retiring Naslund's number was a recognition of the offensive heights achieved by the quiet Swede. It was the right thing, just as it was right to retire the numbers of dedicated, loyal soldiers Stan Smyl and Trevor Linden, but recognizing Bure is a whole other notion. Naslund was incredible, but Bure was better. It's that simple.

A lot has been made over the years of the 'good citizen' values that the Canucks hold over their players; some have suggested that maybe Bure wasn't the greatest team player in that regard. Two things: one, don't over-apply your own standards of behaviour on a player that we don't know all that much about beyond his on-ice character and two, he flew an awfully long way this week to participate in a TV telethon that the Canucks have plenty of options when it comes to retired players.

Bure's public persona has never been big. He's clearly a private man who was comfortable showing his hockey side and nothing else. We are conditioned to think that the charitable work of players is something we, the public, should know about - but the truth is, we only know about the stories that are shared. Most charitable work never gets reported - Francesco Aquilini's work at Templeton Secondary has been going on for a while, yet we are only just hearing about it - and most people don't do it to get attention. It's also not everyone's first instinct.

That's always been an unfair criticism of Bure. There's never been any noise that he *didn't * want to be involved in charity, but there was always noise that he didn't go over and above. But how much is enough, really? We know how much charity work Trevor Linden has done over the years, but we've always known about Linden's comfort with his public persona. That's not exactly something that you can criticize someone for. How many of you are comfortable speaking in front of a group, let alone on camera?

Let's celebrate Bure for his contribution to the game. He's the best we've seen. He's in the hall of fame. He's not a jerk.

And he came back. 

Raise that 10.

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Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
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#1 Cale
April 06 2013, 07:26PM
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It's not enough for the player to have been great; they had to have also been a massive part of the organization. Hell, Messier was great but we'd throw another riot if his number were ever retired.

As great a player as Bure was, he wasn't really a great *Canuck* in the same way Nazzy, Linden, Smyl, or the Sedins were/are. I don't think on-ice wizardry should be enough to get your number retired. You need to have had that extra something that cements your place as one of the greats in the eyes of the fans.

Again, Bure was a fantastic player and by far the most skilled to ever wear a Canucks jersey. In my mind, though, he just doesn't have the extra je ne sais quois to deserve his number in the rafters.

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#2 JI123
April 06 2013, 04:40PM
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Yay! I am too young to have witnessed Bure, but one peek at his stats and highlight videos on youtube show me that he was truly a special player, one of, if not the best players to have ever donned the 'nucks jersey.

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#3 Joel
April 06 2013, 07:12PM
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I totally agree that he needs his number raised.

One thing though, which you touched on briefly, but we only saw Bure in his prime.

Those of us old enough remember him flying around, more than earning the Russian Rocket nickname. But, and this isn't a bad thing, we didn't see the end of his career. We didn't have to see the knee problems that hobbled his amazing speed.

With Linden, our most recent memories on the ice were his contributions as a 4th liner. By the time he retired, he wasn't the player I remember as a kid from the 94 run.

With Naslund, whether it was the Moore elbow, or the aftereffects of the Bertuzzi/Moore incident, he was never the same and we all saw that in the last couple of seasons.

With the twins, we haven't seen the decline at the end of their careers, but we all saw the beginning years, when the weren't NHL ready by Crawford and Burke gave them undeserved minutes to develop. (Hey, it worked out pretty well, but the first couple of seasons were kinda ugly)

With Bure though, he was awesome from start to finish in Vancouver.

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#4 They're $hittie
April 06 2013, 07:57PM
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This could be the first time in Canucks history that they will be celebrating something worthy of a celebration in the NHL.

Something with an actual accomplishment.

The canucks have to celebrate the most stupid things.

Congrats to bure. Please no more cliff ronning nights.

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#5 2gangsta2care
April 06 2013, 10:04PM
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Canucks vs. Flames, second period 1:45-1:00: got a sem-dog

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#6 goalfiSh
April 07 2013, 05:41AM
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"Naslund was incredible, but Bure was better."

no buts...

Naslund was incredible. Bure was better.

He will always be the Russian Rocket to me.

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