VANCOUVER -- Pavel Bure was back here Tuesday, and again the man dubbed the "Russian Rocket" brought Canucks fans out of their seats when the team announced his No. 10 jersey would be retired and raised to the rafters of Rogers Arena.
After a short video tribute, Bure emerged from behind the crowd at the annual Summer Summit event for season-ticket holders, high-fiving fans on his way to the stage for the announcement and later taking questions from them. Several started with declarations he was the reason they became fans -- of the Canucks and hockey -- in the first place.
Now, after a career that started with 254 goals and 478 points in 428 games over seven mostly electrifying seasons with Vancouver, those fans will be able to celebrate Bure's legacy forever. He joins Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden and Markus Naslund as the Canucks players to have their numbers retired.
"It's a huge honor, and as a player the biggest achievement you can get as a personal achievement," Bure, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, said before thanking management, ownership and the fans. "Thank you, guys. I love you."
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Bure, nicknamed for his speedy rushes up the ice and highlight-reel breakaway goals, won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie following the 1991-92 season, when he had 34 goals and 60 points. The Moscow native holds the franchise record for points by a rookie, is the Canucks' career leader for shorthanded goals (24), and remains top-five in goals, game-winning goals (32) and hat tricks (nine) in 428 games.
Bure had back-to-back 60-goal seasons in his second and third years in the NHL. He shares the team playoff-goal record with Linden (34), including a franchise-record 16 in leading Vancouver to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 1994. But Bure's impact goes well beyond the record books. It was about the buzz he created around the NHL whenever he built up a head of steam with the puck.
"Without a doubt in my mind the most exciting player I have ever seen play in my time," said Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, who was Bure's agent during his 12-season NHL career. "I don't think there is anybody as deserving to be honored here for what he did for this organization and what he did to make this team relevant."
Bure's time in Vancouver included controversy, especially after it ended with a trade demand and holdout that ultimately led to him being sent to the Florida Panthers as part of a seven-player deal midway through the 1998-99 season.
Bure scored 58 and 59 goals in his first two full seasons with the Panthers and played one more partial season in Florida. His career was slowed by knee injuries and ended with parts of two seasons with the New York Rangers. Bure finished with 437 goals and 779 points in 702 games.
Any lingering acrimony between Bure and the Canucks ended when owner Francesco Aquilini made a special trip to see him during the forward's Hall of Fame induction last year.
"That was a really big deal for me," Bure said.
Now, more than a decade after retiring, his No. 10 will be honored in the city where his NHL career started, alongside the No. 12 of Smyl, Linden's No. 16 and Naslund's No. 19.
"It just brings lots of good memories to be next to those great guys," Bure said.
Seeing the "Russian Rocket" back in Vancouver did the same for Canucks fans.