Pavel Bure deserves to have his number retired by the Vancouver Canucks, many argued for years, BUT – and this was a major but – for reasons different than why Smyl, Linden and Naslund have their numbers hanging from the rafters at Rogers Arena.
The Russian Rocket has earned the franchise’s ultimate recognition because he was hands down the most captivating player Vancouver has ever had; he put the Canucks on the map and a vast majority of fans trace their interest in the team back to when Bure tore the NHL a new one.
BUT, as the popular argument went, he didn’t have any involvement within the community and for a franchise that puts so much emphasis on active citizenship away from the rink, it would be counter-intuitive to acknowledge his career the same way as community pioneers like Smyl, Linden and Naslund.
I heard these arguments and if community involvement was a major number-to-the-rafters pillar, there was no arguing it.
BUT – and this is my but – how do we know Bure wasn’t a community leader? Taking the word of curmudgeonly reporters from back in the day seems a little foolish and since cameras and phones were two separate things during Bure’s time in Vancouver, word didn’t spread like it does today whenever someone sees Dan Hamhuis trick-or-treating down the street with his kids.
To fulfill my curiosity about Bure’s supposed lack of contribution to the community, I asked Bure himself about his involvement. He was shy, as Bure is when speaking of anything other than hockey, but said he did regular hospital visits and took part in countless events, both with the team and on his own.
In the debate of who to trust between Bure and reporters, I went with Bure, but I wanted more. When Bure was in Vancouver in March as the Canucks formally announced his jersey would be retired in November, he went to both Canuck Place and BC Children's Hospital to visit children battling an array of illnesses. I tagged along.
What I witnessed was a sincere effort by Bure to spend time with kids and connect with a range of children from generations who only know the Russian Rocket from YouTube clips. I remember watching Bure try to sell penalties back in the day, he’s not a great actor, so I knew this was genuine and I knew he wasn’t lying about making an impact in the community while with the Canucks.
Our photo archive database provided all the proof I needed and I hope it finally puts to rest the belief that Bure was a beauty on the ice and a beast off it. Here's a sample of what I discovered.