Everyone loves looking back at the history of their favourite players, especially their rookie season when they just broke into the league. That’s what this article series is going to endeavour to do, rewind the tape and let you re-live the glory of their first season in the NHL.
From their first NHL goal to milestones and exciting moments, the Vancouver Canucks Rookie Rewind will either be a nostalgic flashback or an exciting introduction to Canucks history. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the first player to be featured in this series, the one and only Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure.
Flashback to the 1989 Draft When Bure Was Selected 113th Overall
When the Canucks selected Bure 113th overall at the 1989 NHL Draft, many teams were surprised. The uber-skilled 18-year-old wasn’t supposed to be selected in the 1989 Draft, but a year later in the 1990 Draft due to concerns that he wouldn’t ever play in North America. Well, that’s at least what all the other teams thought. Canucks chief scout Mike Penny knew better. Having done extensive in-person scouting in Russia, he learned that Bure had played the required 11 International Ice Hockey Federation-sanctioned games with the Russian National Team instead of the widely-believed 10. At that time, teams could not draft European junior-aged players in the first three rounds unless they had played those required 11 games.
Penny convinced general manager (GM) Pat Quinn to throw caution to the wind and pick Bure in the sixth round, despite the lingering questions about his eligibility. The pick was, of course, challenged by the league. Brian Burke, who later became GM of the Canucks a few seasons later, argued the selection for the Canucks and won. The rest, as they say, is history as Bure became one of the most exciting players they ever had.
Nov. 5, 1991: Bure Makes His NHL Debut
Bure made his NHL debut on Nov. 5, 1991 against Phil Housley and the Winnipeg Jets. He didn’t score in his first game but wowed fans with his ultra-smooth skating and lightning-fast acceleration. Everyone knew he was going to be a superstar one day, even though he didn’t put up any points. He had everyone on the edge of their seats all game long.
Although he isn’t a left winger, premier Mike Harcourt could well have named him minister for speed and stick handling yesterday as his rushes brought standing ovations and tumultuous cheers from the faithful throng. And win or lose, the prospect of watching this fellow for the next 10 years would have to bring a smile even to the kisser of Don Cherry…And though he didn’t get on the scoreboard, he drew seven minutes in Jet penalties, and was stopped three times while in cold by Winnipeg goalie Rick Tabaracci.Tony Gallagher
It only took two games before Bure was recording his first NHL point and three games before he was potting his first NHL goal. The first of 437 he ended up scoring before he hung up the rocket boosters 11 years later in 2003.
Nov. 12, 1991: Bure Scores His First Two Goals in the NHL
Goaltender: Kelly Hrudey (Los Angeles Kings)
Time of the Goal: 7:17 of the second period
Knowing Bure’s skill and natural goalscoring abilities, it wasn’t going to take long before he was scoring his first NHL goal. 30 years ago to the day, he sniped home the first goal of his career, much to the delight of Canucks fans everywhere. It was the first of 254 he scored in a Canucks uniform, which included ten hat tricks, two 60-goal seasons, one 50-goal season, and two campaigns where he recorded over 100 points.
The goal was vintage Bure too, as the puck found the stick of the natural goalscorer right in the slot where he made a quick deke to the backhand and fooled Los Angeles Kings’ goaltender Kelly Hrudey. It was the first of two goals in the game as he scored another one against backup goaltender Daniel Berthiaume at 18:12 of the third period, assisted by Cliff Ronning and Sergio Momesso.
The Rest of Bure’s Rookie Campaign
Bure went on to score 34 goals and 60 points in 65 games en route to a Calder Trophy. He also had seven power play goals and three shorthanded goals. He didn’t record a hat trick during the regular season but managed to pull the feat off in the playoffs against Rick Tabaracci and the Jets on Apr. 28, 1992.
As of this writing, Bure still holds the franchise rookie record for goals scored in a season with 34. He grabbed that milestone on Mar. 29, 1992 when he scored his 31st against Washington Capitals goaltender Don Beaupre. With the goal, he passed Trevor Linden who ended up only holding the record for one season.
Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson threatened Bure in the modern era when they scored 29 and 28 respectively, but no one has been able to touch him in almost 30 years now. He did hold the points record for a while, but Pettersson took that away when he posted 66 points during his rookie season in 2018-19.
Bure Was a Prolific Playoff Scorer, Even as a Rookie
Goaltender: Rick Tabaracci (Winnipeg Jets)
Time of the Goal: 17:13 of the second period
Bure’s rookie brilliance didn’t end in the regular season, it continued into the playoffs too. Playing against the same team he debuted against only a few months before, he scored his first-ever playoff goal on Apr. 18, 1992. After a missed shot by Jets forward Troy Murray, Bure picked up the puck at center ice, and after a give-and-go with Tom Fergus, he tipped home the first of 34 playoff goals he scored in a Canucks uniform.
Along with the aforementioned hat trick, Bure scored six goals and ten points in 13 playoff games that season as the Canucks were eventually eliminated 4-2 in the Division Finals against the Edmonton Oilers. He went on to entertain the faithful with several more playoff goals, including a career-high 16 during the 1994 Stanley Cup run. That run also saw him ignite the crowd with his only overtime playoff goal, scored famously against Mike Vernon and the Calgary Flames in Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarter-Finals.
The Rest of Bure’s Career
Bure’s rookie season was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to goals. By the end of his tenure with the Canucks, he had 254 goals and 478 points in 428 games. Those totals rank him 5th all-time in goals and points and 35th in games played. He also still holds the record for most goals in a season with 60.
Related: Pavel Bure – Panthers Den of Honor
After stints with the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers where he scored another 183 goals and 301 points in 274 games and won back-to-back Rocket Richard Trophies, he retired at the age of 31. He finished his NHL career with 437 goals and 779 points in 702 games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012 along with Adam Oates, Joe Sakic, and Mats Sundin and the Canucks retired his No. 10 jersey shortly after in 2013.
- Bure scored the most goals in his career against the Kings (31)
- Bure was most successful in the month of January where he scored 88 goals
- Igor Larionov assisted on 16 of Bure’s 34 goals during his rookie season
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Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.
Matthew also co-hosts The Hockey Writers Prospect Corner on YouTube.