10 – 12 – 16 – 19 – 22? – 33?

Bure in the rafters and players wear Pavel Bure's #10 in warm-up on Saturday in Vancouver. (Photo by Alex Clipsham)

Bure in the rafters and players wear Pavel Bure’s #10 in warm-up on Saturday in Vancouver. (Photo by Alex Clipsham)

Pavel Bure fans can finally feel at peace now that the famous Russian’s number 10 is in the rafters of Rogers Arena. For many fans, it was a long overdue tribute to the superstar who flashed his skills on the ice from 1991-’98.

No Canuck fan can forget the famous Game 7 double overtime goal on April 30, 1994. Bure took the breakaway pass, scored and threw his gloves into the crowd in excitement as the team jumped off the bench and tackled him to the ice in celebration. I remember it and I was only six years old.

Bure was the greatest Vancouver Canuck, in terms of skill, ever to play for the team. In 428 games, he amassed 478 points, leading the Canucks in points per game. To put this in perspective, Henrik and Daniel Sedin have averaged 0.84 points per game where Bure averaged 1.12.

If Bure had been healthy for his entire career, and stayed in Vancouver, his point totals would be untouchable.

So why did it take so long to raise Bure’s number and what defines a player worthy of having his jersey retired? There isn’t a set of guidelines for what makes you eligible. You could play one season for a team and be given the honour, theoretically, if you had great impact on the team in that short time.

If we go through the list of Canucks previous retired players, we start with Stan Smyl’s #12. He was before my time and I don’t have any personal feeling towards him, other than I knew he was the only guy whose number hung in the rafters at the Pacific Colisium. He had 673 points with the Canucks in 896 games and was the captain for the longest time in franchise history, from 1982-’90. Smyl spent his entire career in a Vancouver Canucks uniform, an important attribute to any number being retired.

The next Canuck honoured was #16 – Trevor Linden. I remember Linden as a leader and a fan favourite. He was the hard-working captain through the 1994 Stanley Cup run and one the players most involved in the community. Linden would be tough to beat for the most respected Canuck ever. A true gentlemen of the game, Linden sits fourth on the team’s all-time scoring list and first in games played, with 733 points in 1138 games.

The third retired-number player in Canucks’ history is Markus Naslund. Naslund came to the team from Pittsburgh in 1996 and made a name for himself in Vancouver, having all of his best NHL seasons with the Canucks. In 884 games, he recorded 756 points and sits third on the team’s all-time list, behind the Sedin twins, and first all-time in goals with 346.

During Naslund’s time in Vancouver, the Canucks never made it past the second round of the playoffs. It was a time when the Canucks were not making the playoffs regularly. Through some of the teams darker years, Naslund was a superstar and another true gentlemen of the game.

(Daniel and Henrik Sedin are one and two in Canucks all-time scoring. They helped the team get back to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. With another four-year contract recently signed, there is no doubt that they will lead that Canucks in many statistical categories by the end of their careers. They show the leadership exemplified by Naslund, Smyl and Linden and will undoubtable have their jerseys retired at the end of their careers.)

Back to Bure.

He was never known as the leader of the team. He was never a captain. He didn’t play his entire career here. He left in 1998 for Florida.

He wasn’t known off the ice the same way that Naslund, Linden and Smyl were, but he brought us something different and memorable. After all I’ve said studied the past Canucks players I can’t find that same emotional feeling when I talk about about them in comparison to Bure.

I have nothing against the other players and I have memories of them as well. I remember hearing about Stan Smyl and how the people cheered when he’d make an appearance. I respected him.

I can’t forget that picture of Trevor Linden and Kirk McLean hugging after that hard-fought playoff series in 1994 or how charismatically Linden went about being a professional and how loyal he was to our city.

I will always remember the Naslund years with those 100-plus point seasons and that powerful wrist shot. How could I forget him, on a line with Bertuzzi and Morrison, scoring all those big goals surrounded by a less talented team.

But when I think of Bure I can still get goosebumps. I can remember trying to copy his every move, which was impossible. His hair flowing out of his helmet during the ’94 Cup run. Chewing bubblegum in warm-up. Always looking so calm, cool and collected while skating around guys as if they were standing still. That goal in game seven at the Saddledome in Calgary. Those goals during the finals series against New York. His overall energy through the entire 1994 season. Unforgettable.

When you played street hockey as a kid, if you were a Canucks fan, you wanted to be Pavel Bure. In school, you drew pictures of Pavel Bure. If you were a girl who didn’t like hockey, you still wanted to see Pavel Bure. I remember crying when Steve Smith from the Chicago Blackhawks hit Bure into the boards and ended Bure’s season because of a massive knee injury.

Bure had something about him Vancouver that electrified the city for those seven years he played here. If only he could have played 20 seasons. If only his knees stayed healthy. Seeing his number sail into the rafters at Rogers Arena on Saturday was a moment many Canuck fans won’t forget.

Finally, Pavel Bure fans can feel justice. Everytime we walk into Rogers Arena, we can look up, and for a second, remember of all those defining moments.

Alex Clipsham

Alex Clipsham is a second year Journalism & Communications student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C.

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