Why Pavel Bure’s jersey doesn’t belong in the rafters

Bure(ing) the past

The memory of Canucks fans is apparently pretty short.

There seemed to be rejoicing in Canucks Nation after the team announced the retirement of Pavel Bure’s #10 sweater.

Numbers don’t lie and Bure put up some incredible stats during his time in Vancouver. He still holds the team record for most goals in a single season, is the only Canuck to ever win the Calder and averaged over a point a game in the playoffs.

But it’s really a moot point. This is the same guy who refused to report to the Canucks in 1998, essentially handcuffing the franchise. He still had a year left on his deal and has still never explained why he chose to not show up for work.

Here’s why

Bure was a selfish player on the ice but his actions off the ice seemed to emphasize that point.  In addition to the holdout debacle, there were also rumours of Bure holding up the Canucks before the end of the team’s first round battle against Calgary in 1994.

The guy put himself before the team and Canucks fans should never forget the way Bure skipped town, leaving the Canucks in a complete tailspin before the West Coast Express formed.

People will complain and point out that a player like Naslund has his number retired and therefore Bure deserves it as well. I was never on board for the Naslund number retiring but he was much more deserving than Bure.

Naslund showed up to work, put up a number of great seasons and never screwed over his team. He also always faced the fire of the media and never backed away from making comments like Bure did.

What’s in a jersey retirement anyways?


The Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure. (Photo:

Jersey retirements are not only about statistics – if that was the case it’s debatable that guys like Smyl and Linden should be hanging from the rafters.

It’s about being a productive player, a good teammate and representative of the city. I’d say Bure’s about one for three in those criteria.

Sure, he was flashy but so are Michael Bay films – and you won’t see Transformers picking up any Oscars anytime soon.

He never led the Canucks to a Stanley Cup, never won any individual awards besides the Calder and ditched the team when they need him most – not exactly jersey retirement stuff.

The Bure/Heatley comparison

The Bure situation isn’t all that different from the Dany Heatley holdout from Ottawa a few years back.

Like Bure, Heatley had an existing contract that he wasn’t happy with. Both guys put themselves ahead of the team and their respective franchises suffered.

I don’t think you’ll see #15 go to the rafters in Ottawa anytime soon.

The late 90s were a brutal time in Canucks history, with Mark Messier and Mike Keenan taking over a gong show of a team that underachieved. It seems like Bure’s behaviour has been swept under the rug and has been mostly overlooked.

With YouTube it’s so easy to type in Pavel Bure and be wowed with his skill, speed and highlight reel talent. What’s harder to find is Bure’s highlights from late ’98 – aka practicing with clubs in Russia.

In the end, it all comes down to dollars and cents.

Bure’s number retirement will spark jersey and t-shirt sales, increase TV ratings and give meaning to a likely meaningless regular season game. 

Those dollar signs made the bitter pill much easier to swallow for the Canucks.

Canucks fans will now always look to the rafters and remember the series winning goal against the Flames in ’94, the speed and the flair.

But what they shouldn’t forget is the holdout, the whining and the abandonment.


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About Ben Lypka

Straight outta South Central Delta, BC, Ben's been a sports nut for as long as he can remember. With experience covering the Olympic Games and reporting on sporting events in BC and Alberta, he hopes to bring a unique perspective to the NWSB! You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Ben today!
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