For as long as there are Halls of Fame, fans, critics and players will debate on who should and should not be inducted and given legendary status. There are those who are first-ballot Hall of Famers, while others are made to sweat it out a few years before getting the nod. Others, like Pavel Bure, had historic careers cut short, leaving many to ask “what if?”
Simply put, The Russian Rocket was ahead of his time in the early 1990s, a decade before the likes of other Russian greats like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk were lighting lamps across NHL cities. In his short career, there were few players better than Bure, who was drafted in the sixth-round in 1989 by the Vancouver Canucks and would go on to play for the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers, who could get you out of your seat or watch in awe at his speed and finesse on the rink.
Bure’s career was hindered by knee problems, which ultimately resulted in early retirement after just 12 NHL seasons, three of which he played less than 15 games. In that short time, Bure amassed 437 goals and 779 points in just 702 games while playing in the dead-puck era of the NHL, where hooking, clutching and grabbing was considered strong defense.
He scored 50-plus goals in five seasons, including back-to-back 60 goals campaigns from 1992-94.
He captured the 1992 Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year, won back-to-back Maurice Richard Trophies for leading the league in goals, and would have won in 1994 had the trophy been around. He was a six-time All Star, including game MVP in 2000.
The Rocket excelled internationally as well, competing for both the Soviet Union and Russia. With the Soviets, he won two silver medals and a gold in three World Junior Championship appearances. He followed that up with a gold and silver at the 1990 and 1991 World Championships, respectively. He also won a silver medal at the 1998 Olympics, and a bronze in 2002.
The knock on Bure is that he just didn’t last in the NHL, calling it quits in 2003 at just 32 years old, never winning a Stanley Cup. But that isn’t giving him the respect he deserves. Yes, his career was shorter than most in the Hall, but that should not take away from Bure’s Hall of Fame career. He was a dominant force in the league throughout his career, scoring more than a point-per-game. A player should be judged on his career, no matter how long or short it is.
Mike Bossy played just 10 seasons (though 50 more games than Bure) in the NHL and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. Though Bure’s stats do not compare to those of Bossy’s, especially with Stanley Cup titles, neither player had long shelf lives. But both made the most of it.
Bure is no doubt a long-shot to get the call to the Hall. But there is no denying he was one of the best and my dynamic players the league has ever seen. Sadly, when it comes to The Russian Rocket, fans are left asking “what if,?”
Matt is a recent graduate of Stony Brook University where he received his BA in Journalism. He’s written for several newspapers and Web sites, and covers high school sports on Long Island for MSGVarsity.com. He’s a life-long and long-suffering New York Ranger fan, for whom he will be covering for THW.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamiaTHW