Can Vancouver forgive?
Over 40 plus years of their history, the Vancouver Canucks have had several good players but the pickings had been slim to none with regards to true Hall of Fame members.
Then, the big breaking news this week was the selection of two former Canucks as new entrants to the hall in super Swede Mats Sundin and the enigmatic Russian Pavel Bure.
Although both players count the Canucks on their playing resumes, a very faint percentage of Canucks fans would really count Sundin as a Canuck, while the vast majority of Vancouver fans remember the Bure who broke into the NHL and dominated it as a young Canucks phenom.
The Russian Rocket’s numbers were dizzying. He potted sixty goals twice in the regular season with Vancouver for an eventual tally of 254 markers with the team. He also carried the Canucks on his back, along with Trevor Linden and Kirk McLean, en route to the ’94 Stanley Cup Final.
His game winner in Game 7 of the first round against the Calgary Flames is still the most electrifying play in Vancouver history.
However, despite the thrill of Bure’s early NHL career on the west coast in BC, the cloud surrounding his abrupt departure from the team has still hung over the franchise for many supporters.
At the time of his decision, after the 1997-98 season, fans were stunned at the impending loss of their superstar.
The best explanation offered by his agent was that Bure felt alienated and demeaned by Canucks management.
Other postured theories surrounded injury inspired frustration, a desire to play in warm weather environs like Florida (where he ended up), and frustrations with life in Vancouver that supposedly lacked the glamor of bigger, brighter cities.
The betrayal felt by fans was loud and swift though following the July, 1998 announcement. Accusations flew incriminatingly at both sides.
The team took its fair share from those who felt that management was remiss in pleasing their star who had earned the right to special treatment.
However, the supporters bound by loyalty to the organization, and a perception that the multi-talented Bure was something of a cold fish in the personality department, were cemented in their disgust at his insulting request by the extended holdout that saw the Russian flee to the Panthers in January of 1999.
The present day
The passage of time has tempered those memories though for most fans. Tuesday’s pronouncement of the new Hall of Famer brought out a flood of responses on Twitter and radio call-in shows from those who could recall the astounding skills of the fleet Bure.
There was nary a negative comment to be found initially.
More posters and callers were upset with the fact that Bure’s #10 is yet to be retired by the team, unlike Smyl, Linden and Naslund.
Perhaps that forgiveness is yet to be experienced by the men in charge. (Note: Mike Gillis did also serve as one of the Russian’s agents).
I myself have only ever worn one team jersey emblazoned with a player’s name and it was that of the Russian deity.
Those fond teenage memories don’t fade easily.