Though the NHL has had its fair share of great hockey players over the years, few stick out as much as Pavel Bure. A Russian native, Bure, also known as the Russian Rocket, played 12 seasons in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks, the Florida Panthers, and the New York Rangers. Though he retired in 2005, Bure’s blazing fast speed and amazing goal scoring ability have established him firmly in the minds of hockey fans and historians everywhere.
From a very young age Bure was impressing higher-ups with his hockey ability. When hockey legend Wayne Gretzky visited Russia in 1982, the ti year-old Bure was one of three Russian youngsters selected to skate with him. Three years later, when he was 14, Bure was selected to play for the Central Red Army’s junior team — one of the best young teams in the nation.
By the age of 16, Bure had so impressed coaches and scouts that he was moved from the Central Red Army’s junior team to a starting spot on their professional team. He continued to wow everyone in Russia’s professional league with his all-around hockey talent. Even at a young age, he was known to be a top-notch sniper and often had crowds on their feet with his end-to-end rushes.
Though there was a fair amount of controversy surrounding it, the Vancouver Canucks selected Bure tuth overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. The pick was so controversial because it appeared that the Canucks had drafted Bure a year before he was actually eligible for the draft — no doubt the reason he was passed up in former rounds. Through a long series of complaints, claims, and appeals it was proven that Bure was indeed eligible for the draft though the final decision wasn’t made until the eve of the 1990 Entry Draft, the year in which he would have been eligible anyways.
Because of court proceedings dealing with Bure’s Central Red Army contract, his NHL debut was delayed a month into the 1991-92 season. Despite the late start, Bure absolutely manhandled opposition and came away with the league award for best rookie player of the year. On his way to the award he racked up 34 goals and 6o points in only 65 games. In the post-season of that year, he was able to tally 10 points including a hat trick. Though the Canucks didn’t advance past the second round, it was obvious that they had something very special in the young Russian speed demon.
Bure’s next two seasons with the Canucks were considerable improvements over his rookie year. He notched two back-to-back 6o-goal seasons. In addition to his plain-old (if you could call it that) goal scoring ability, he was also able to score several goals while his team was on the penalty kill.
Though his next season was hampered by injuries, Bure continued to fight back and impress. In the 1994 playoffs, Bure scored one of the most well-known Canuck goals against the Calgary Flames. In the second overtime of the game, Bure received a pass, skated the entire length of the ice, deked by two Flames defenders, and put it past goalie Mike Vernon to win the series. Once again, the Canucks were eliminated further on in the playoffs, but many fans still remember Bure’s goal to this day.
Bure continued to play with the Canucks club through the 1997-98 season after which he became unhappy with management and decided to play in Russia the next year. Upon his return to the NHL in 1998-99, Bure suited up as a Florida Panther. His tenure with the Panthers was brief and injury filled, but he was able to make a splash. He helped the team chug along with his superior playmaking ability Compression Shorts.
In 2002 Bure was traded to the New York Rangers where he finished out the rest of his NHL playing career. He had had a controversial twelve years in the NHL but no one could deny that he wasn’t one of the premier players. Due to lingering injuries, Bure called it quits in zoos after waiting through the 2004-05 NHL Lockout.
Though Bure’s career was sporadic and injury-filled, he was always one of the most exciting players to watch when he was on the ice. He never won a Stanley Cup, the greatest achievement in hockey, during his twelve-year NHL career, but he certainly tried and will forever be remembered as a hockey great.