The meaning of Pavel Bure

The glory of the rush

In the hundred years of the NHL, there have been few players who lifted fans out of their seats. Many are just names from the past, but others are visceral images. Names like Richard, Morenz, Lalonde, Cook, Orr, LaFleur, Coffey…all remind us of the thrill of the end-to-end rush. 

There’s a spike of adrenaline in that moment, where you begin to overflow with excitement. Seeing a player wind up at one end and then take their patented explosive first stride to gain the neutral zone is just the beginning; you hope there will bemore. The player gains the red line, the defence is retreating, then the blue line and…

You hope there will be a break. Are they skating fast enough? There’s a hole there, can the skater hit it and keep the puck? 

You don’t want the moment to end. 

Into the clear, there nothing between shooter and goalie. You aren’t quite sure how the skater is always able to do this, but they have, and that’s why you are watching.

It almost doesn’t matter if they score.

Pavel Bure’s first shift was even greater because we didn’t know what was coming. It’s a shift that’s been written about many times before; most highlight the sheer electricity of it, how it was like he had been shot out of a cannon and roared all over the ice. From that moment on, how Vancouver hockey fans understood hockey changed. 

The Russian Rocket pulled hockey in Vancouver into a nearly-perpetual offensive age. There had been talented players here before – Andre Boudrias, Thomas Gradin, Patrik Sundstrom, Petri Skriko, Tony Tanti – but none had ever ushered in a mindset. Bure did that. Canucks fans came to expect goals and exciting team play. 

Years later, it was a mentality that Brian Burke highlighted: he made it clear that Vancouver fans were owed entertaining hockey; that it would be easy to turn into the New Jersey of the west, but ethically he would never allowed that to happen. That was a legacy of Bure.

The Canucks would forever be a team that scored goals.

Pat Quinn has pointed out how bad things were when he arrived as GM in 1987. Crowds were tiny (we complain about Phoenix now, but this was a sad-sack market in 1986), the team was terrible and the prospect cupboard was bare. After the arrival of Skriko, Sundstrom, Doug Lidster and Cam Neely, in 1983 and 1984, there wasn’t another useful young player to emerge until Trevor Linden began a slow trickle of quality forwards in 1988.

Bringing in Bure was the pinnacle of Quinn’s player recriutment drive. He built a team to score.

Fans from 20 years ago were lucky. It was like they were watching a blank canvas – of a team and of a player. Everything that happened then was new and exciting. That was because of Pavel Bure.

Canucks fans have enjoyed a team of offensive ambition for most of the last 20 years.

Pavel bure was the true beginning of that.  

He wasn’t just the first generational talent to be seen in Vancouver, he was the vanguard of an assumption about hockey. 

Bure to Naslund to Bertuzzi to Sedin to Sedin to…