Pavel Bure didn't make it back to Vancouver for a reunion of the 1994 Canucks team earlier this week, but he's well aware of the excitement that is gripping the city. The Russian Rocket lived it himself 17 years ago and is hoping the current version of the Canucks can accomplish what he and his teammates failed to. Florida Panthers' Pavel Bure watches teammates during a break in practice Wednesday, Sept. 29, 1999 in Coral Springs, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Wilfredo Lee
Pavel Bure didn't make it back to Vancouver for a reunion of the 1994 Canucks team earlier this week, but he's well aware of the excitement that is gripping the city.
The Russian Rocket lived it himself 17 years ago and is hoping the current version of the Canucks can accomplish what he and his teammates failed to.
"Definitely I'm going to watch that final and I wish for them to win the Cup," Bure said Friday from Miami.
Now 40 and eight years into his retirement from the NHL, Bure still keeps tabs on the league. He's followed this year's playoffs closely from his living room in Florida and believes the Canucks have the proper makeup to win a championship.
It's a different situation than the '94 team faced in a final against the heavily favoured New York Rangers.
"We were underdogs all the way," said Bure. "Obviously right now it's totally different. I think they're the favourite because they won the Presidents' Trophy by quite a few points, not just a little bit.
"They were the favourites even going to the playoffs and so far they're doing really well."
Vancouver's deep playoff run has brought back memories of the magical spring of 1994, when Bure and his teammates erased a 3-1 deficit in the first round against Calgary before dispatching Dallas and Toronto on the way to a heartbreaking seventh-game loss to the Rangers in the Stanley Cup final.
The little team that could seemed to pick up steam with each passing game. Bure believes the turning point came in Game 5 of the opening round against the Flames.
"When (the series) was 3-1 and we went to the overtime, I guess we had nothing to lose," said Bure. "We relaxed and we came together as a team. We won that game and we started to believe a little bit; we went to overtime again (in Game 6) and we won; and then there was double overtime (in Game 7) and we won that."
The series-clincher came on a vintage Bure play, where he deftly slipped behind the defence and beat Mike Vernon on a breakaway for one of 16 goals he'd score that post-season.
It gave Vancouver some swagger.
"After that, everybody was playing above their level I think," said Bure. "We were a really close team, had a huge belief in ourselves and I just remember sitting in the dressing room: `OK, we tied the game and for sure we're going to win.'
"We just had some much confidence, you know?"
They rode that right until the dying minutes of Game 7 against the Rangers, who edged Vancouver 3-2 to end a 54-year Stanley Cup drought.
Bure was just 23 then, but he would only be part of two more teams that qualified for the playoffs—never again getting past the second round. Even still, he doesn't live with regret about what could have been in 1994.
"Obviously, everybody wants to win and not all the time it's going your way," said Bure. "We can't change the past. What happened, happened."
While the Russian plans to watch the Stanley Cup final closely, he won't attend any of the games.
Bure has kept a low profile since he was forced out of hockey by chronic knee injuries in 2003. He continues to support the NHLPA's Goals&Dreams program and makes occasional appearances on behalf of that cause, but otherwise shies away from the spotlight.
"Maybe I've had enough so far in my life and I just want to take a break from the public eye," said Bure. "I'm just comfortable with myself, with my family, with my friends and that's how I want to keep it for now.
"You never know—maybe one day I'll want to go back in the public eye. Just not at this point."