While the retirements of NHL Superstars Mark Messier and Brett Hull received plenty of fanfare around the hockey world this fall, the announcement last week that Pavel Bure had decided to "hang 'em up" and take the job as Team Russia's General Manager didn't receive much attention. While the "Russian Rocket" never won a Stanley Cup and wasn't able to stay healthy enough to challenge any of the leagues all-time scoring records he still has to go down as one of the most exciting and prolific goal scorers in the league's history.
The Vancouver Canucks drafted Bure in the 6th round in 1989 and he burst onto the NHL scene three years later recording 60 points for the 1991-92 Canucks and capturing the Calder Trophy as the leagues top rookie. The next two seasons he was a virtual scoring machine. Using his blinding speed and dazzling hands Bure scored 60 goals in each of those two seasons. In 1994 he helped lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals where they fell in seven games to the New York Rangers. Bure scored 16 goals and 31 points in the playoffs that year.
But while Bure was known for his scoring ability, regrettably he would also be known later in his career as a player who had knee problems. Bure first tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 1995. There would be more knee trouble after his trade to Florida in 1999. Things didn't change when he went to the New York Rangers in 2002 and went under the knife for a knee injury again.
Bure did have his detractors. Some felt he was a self centered player, particularly after he demanded a trade out of Vancouver in 1998. There were others who were just simply jealous of him especially after he reportedly dated tennis pinup girl Anna Kournikova.
I'll remember the "Russian Rocket" as an electrifying talent who, when he was healthy, could skate faster than anyone I can remember. Looking back on his 12 year career, his greatest accomplishment might have come in his two full seasons with the Panthers in 2000 and 2001 when he scored 58 and 59 goals respectively to lead the league. Goals were hard to come by in that "clutch and grab" era but even on bad knees Bure was the best in the world.
I'm Randy Hahn for Seagate Technology’s In The Crease