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.