Why the Canucks Shouldn’t Retire Pavel Bure’s Number 10

This weekend Pavel Bure will be going into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and it appears that the Russian Rocket – the most exciting player to ever don some variation of a Vancouver Canucks sweater – will be honoured at long last by the team as well. Late on Wednesday evening, Jason Botchford reported that the Canucks are likely planning on retiriing Pavel Bure’s number 10 at some point when hockey is played again.

Based on what Bure meant to the franchise, to the city and the sport this should be a no-brainer. There are, however, other factors that make this decision a tricky one for the Canucks.

Read on past the jump.

Tony Gallagher, one of Bure’s most outspoken supporters when the Russian Rocket dueled repeatedly with team management some 15 years ago, presented the argument for why it’s "absurd" for Bure’s number not to be retired on Thursday:

Bure… has expressed reluctance at times about being honoured in Vancouver. He’s been concerned about how the crowd might react, given the way he left here — after five years of asking to be traded. And Gillis has indicated that some interests within the club haven’t been overly enthusiastic about the idea. But now it appears they’re getting over whatever pettiness may have been going on — and perhaps the right thing is about to happen.

Bure was easily the best Canuck of all time, his ability to lift people out of their seats absolutely amazing. But everything about him was astounding, different, larger than life — totally unlike any other Canuck before or after him.

Certainly most fans in my generation who grew up watching Bure, scoffed at the Ring of Honour ceremonies celebrating the likes of Harold Snepsts and Thomas Gradin. No disrespect intended but for a lot of fans Bure’s absence from the Ring of Honour, or from the rafters at Rogers Arena has cheapened the honours bestowed on other players. The absence of the number 10 is a constant distraction and the team has long needed to figure out some way of honouring Bure. 

The big issue still is that retiring Bure’s number might not make a lot sense. The Canucks – and this has happened while the Aquilini Group was in charge – have set up an internal standard for number retirements that emphasizes more than just a guy’s play on the ice. In order to have your number retired by the Canucks, generally speaking, you have to have shown loyalty and active citizenship in the local community. By retiring Linden’s number 16 (a slam dunk) in addition to Markus Naslund’s number 19 (less so a slam dunk), the Aquilini Group sent a statement to the denizens of Vancouver and to the players: that this franchise recognizes quality individuals in addition to quality hockey players.

By all accounts Pavel Bure is a fine person, but he’s an intensely private individual, and the Canucks have made a point of retiring the numbers of players who put on a strong "public face." Bure just doesn’t meet this set of criteria. 

Now, whether or not "off ice citizenship" is a wortwhile criteria for the Canucks to use to decide which numbers to retire, is a different argument. In fact, I tend to think that Bure’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame exposed that in-house criteria as stupid (full stop). How are you going to recognize the accomplishments of Smyl and Naslund when Bure is in the Hockey Hall of Fame primarily for what he achieved while wearing the black, red, and yellow jerseys of the mid-90s Vancouver Canucks?

But silliness aside, the Canucks have invested a lot of time into setting up this "community oriented" standard for number retirement and I’d rather see the organization stick to their guns, than cave to public pressure. And make no mistake, this would be the team caving.

The Canucks have had a decade to figure out a way of honouring Bure since his retirement. The team was apparently pushing to induct him into the Ring of Honour (alongside Thomas Gradin and Harold Snepsts!) but Bure reportedly wasn’t interested in showing up for some secondary honour…

Then there’s the trade request. While there’s little doubt that Bure was woefully mistreated by George McPhee and Pat Quinn during his Vancouver tenure, there’s still the fact that he hired current Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis to orchestrate a hold out and a public trade request. I’m of the mind that Bure’s actions were fully justifiable based on the way he was treated by Quinn’s regime, but I also think that an act of insubordination like Bure’s disqualifies you from being honoured, at the highest level, by the team.

Pavel Bure was my favourite player growing up, so don’t count me among the unhinged who will be upset to see his number raised to the rafters of Rogers Arena. His skill alone meant so much to the city, the sport and the franchise; and I’d never say that it’s an honour Bure doesn’t "deserve". It’s just an honour I don’t think he should get.

If Bure does have his number retired, he’ll be the exception to every rule the Canucks have for honouring their players; but maybe that’s fitting. Bure was nothing if not exceptional. 

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Considering the mediocre careers (smyl, linden, and possibly even naslund) and subsequent numbers the Canucks have already retired I would think you would be overjoyed that they are actually retiring a player that is worthy of this honor.

    As for your disdain for the way Bure left town, I invited you to get over it. If the Canadiens can retire Roy, the Canucks can retire Bure.

    • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

      Did you even read the article? No one is debating the numbers Bure had, he never had the same public standing Linden, Smyl and Naslund had. They are three players that all were individually the face of the franchise at one time, while they didn’t have the numbers Bure did they all blow Bure out of the water for what they contributed off ice, in the locker room and in terms of leadership.

      Just because the Canadiens throw around number retirements like they’re candy doesn’t mean the Canucks should. I support not retiring Bure’s number and agree that the Canucks are stepping away from the gold standard they set with previous retirements. I’ve always been happy that the Canucks don’t just give away jersey retirements easily, this compromises that. While I wouldn’t want the Canucks to follow suit I can’t help but admire Toronto’s decision to not retire jersey’s.

      • Mantastic

        if the Canucks were any other organization, only Bure and maybe Smyl would have their jersey’s retired… that is all. ring of honor would be for the naslunds and lindens of the world and jersey retirements are for exceptional hockey players and maybe the franchise’s first captain, which would be more suited for the ring of honour.

        • asdf

          This is contradictory. If you are arguing that the Canucks should hold jersey retirements only for “exceptional” hockey players like Bure, then Smyl should not be anywhere close to the rafters. He was a good player for sure, great captain, and exceptional only in the sense that he served exceptionally well as the face of the franchise. This standard fits the likes of Linden and Naslund, but I would argue that Naslund and Linden (in that order) accomplished more statistically than Smyl.

          I tend to agree with you that the Canucks should be more stringent in terms of number retirement, but at the same time, imo, Linden is probably the only deserving player to have his number retired.

          The fact that Smyl and Naslund is there (with all due respect to these two great payers) is what makes it stupid to not have Bure up there as well, because Bure was the best hockey player among them and the only one in Hall of Fame).

          Look, it’s great that the Canucks want its players to be involved in the community. But that doesn’t equate to never recognizing true talent just because he was a private guy. His bitter divorce with the Canucks should be contextualized. We had crappy management and ownership and the team had no sense of direction at the time.

          I, for one, would like to see the most electrifying player the Canucks ever had to be properly remembered.

  • khlhfs


    If you believe that players should have their jersey’s retired for what they do within a community then fine. I can accept that. That’s your opinion. But then I have to wonder why haven’t the Canucks retired more numbers than just those that belong to Linden, Naslund, and Smyl. Surely, the Canucks have had more than just 3 players over the course of their franchise history make significant contributions to the community.

    Personally, I believe players should be retired for a multitude of reasons. That said reason numero uno, should be what they did between whistles and nothing else. Bure was a world class talent and deserves to have his number raised, and IMO should be the only one raised at GM place in this point in time.

    “I’ve always been happy that the Canucks don’t just give away jersey retirements easily, this compromises that.”

    I like this quote from you. It makes me laugh because obviously, you and I just could not disagree more. You obviously, believe that the raising of Bure’s jersey cheapens the retirement of smyl, linden, and naslund. I see it as the complete opposite. It’s a pity that Bure’s number will hang next the likes of the other 3, when clearly Bure was a cut above.

    As for your cheap shot at the Canadiens. Just for your information. When a team has won 24 stanley cups it means they have seen a few marquee talents in there day giving them reason to raise a jersey or two. Do yourself a favor, go look up the Canadiens history. Particularily, the 70’s and a man by the name of Sam Pollock. Educate yourself.

  • khlhfs

    Naslund won the Lester Pearson award in 2003. That is the award for the best player in the world (pop 6 billion), as voted by NHL players. He was also a 3 time NHL first team all star and a Hart finalist.

    I find it comical that actual players thought of Naslund as the best in the world, but posters here call him “mediocre” or not exceptional.

    • Mantastic

      yes, retire every jersey number of players that have won the Lester B Pearson!!!! best idea of all time, ever. and i was seriously lol’ing saying when you were the best hockey player in the world…

      Naslund was good, but no where exceptional or HHOF worthy.

      silly silly canuck fans

      • Mantastic

        I never said Naslund should have his jersey retired. I took issue with the terms “mediocre” and not exceptional.

        Again, I’ll take the opinion of a league full of pro players over you.

        Perhaps your style here is also better suited for Eklund’s site? Then again, your incoherent ramblings after the 4 exclamation points probably wouldn’t be understood there either.

        silly silly oilers fans