Pavel Bure scored 437 goals in 702 games. (Jamie Squire/Staff/Getty Images)
When Glenn Anderson finally enters the hallowed Hockey Hall of Fame Monday, it will mark the end of one of the great injustices in the game. Anderson deserved to be enshrined among the all-time greats a long time ago and for reasons only it knows, the epitome of hockey’s old boy’s network kept him out.
Good on them, though, for finally correcting their mistake. And now that Anderson has been inducted, let’s move on to the next player who deserves to join him.
That would be Pavel Bure. Not Doug Gilmour, not Dino Ciccarelli, not Phil Housley, not Lorne Chabot. It’s not that those players aren’t worthy of consideration, but it’s an embarrassment that Bure is not in the Hall of Fame and it is time the rest of the hockey world began banging the drum in an effort to shame the selection committee to get off its laurels and get around to inducting him.
But like Anderson, who was eligible as far back as 2000, Bure will also have to be patient. He has been eligible for induction since 2006, but it’s pretty much certain he won’t even be considered in 2009. Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Luc Robitaille are not only worthy first-ballot inductees, but they’d also make up one of the strongest induction classes of all-time.
(What boggles the mind is what exactly made Anderson worthy of the Hall of Fame after he was supposedly unworthy the first seven times he was eligible. But let’s not try to figure out the rationale behind inductions or we’ll drive ourselves out of our minds.)
But there’s no doubt Bure belongs among them. He was a prodigious goal-scorer and one of the most exciting and dynamic players in the history of the game. His skill sold tickets, then pulled people out of their seats once they paid for them. Even though much of his career was spent going head-to-head with the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, Alexander Mogilny, Cam Neely and Theo Fleury in their primes, he was a first-team all-star once at right wing and a second-teamer twice.
I’m not about to get into comparing Bure with players who are already in the Hall of Fame just to make his case. That’s because the reality is anyone who doesn’t realize that Bure belongs in the Hall ahead of the likes of Bob Pulford, Dick Duff, Bernie Federko, Clark Gillies and a host of other marginal players seriously has to have his or her hockey credentials revoked. Just because the Hall has made a number of egregious errors on player inductions in the past doesn’t mean it should continue to do so by going to the lowest common denominator.
But they wouldn’t be doing that with Bure. From the time he came into the league with the Vancouver Canucks in 1991-92, Bure was and electrifying presence and a player who was a legitimate threat to make something exciting happen every time he was on the ice. In addition to his all-star berths, Bure won the Calder Trophy in 1992 (over Nicklas Lidstrom) and twice won the Rocket Richard Trophy. He also would have won the trophy in 1993-94 had it existed.
The two arguments against Bure are that his career was cut short by injury and he never won a Stanley Cup, but both of those are quite easily debunked.
First of all, having a short career didn’t hurt Bobby Orr or Mike Bossy and it should not be held against Bure that his back gave in to the rigors of playing in the toughest league in the world. Had he spent the first half or two-thirds of his career playing in Europe and piling up Olympic gold medals and World Championships against inferior competition and in a much less rigorous environment, the way 2008 inductee Igor Larionov did, Bure would have his path to the Hall of Fame cleared already.
Secondly, it’s not Bure’s fault he didn’t win a Stanley Cup. He came agonizingly close to doing so with the Vancouver Canucks in 1994, a spring in which he led all NHL players in playoff goals with 16. Although Bure only played in the playoffs five times, he failed to average at least a point per game just one of those years and his 70 points in 64 playoff games stacks up favorably against a lot of players with Hall of Fame credentials.
But it was his sustained excellence during the regular season – particularly in goal scoring – that sets Bure apart. He played just 702 games, but scored 437 goals, just 47 fewer than Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler, whose 484 career goals came in almost 400 more games than Bure played. In fact, Bure’s average of .623 goals per game is third-highest in NHL history among the league’s top 100 goal scorers behind only Bossy (.762) and Mario Lemieux (.754).
And even though Bure would become the first Russian player in history to be inducted almost solely on his NHL exploits, he also has an impressive international resume that some might not take into account. He was part of one of the most dominant lines in World Junior Championship history in 1989 with Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov, where Bure was named the top forward. He followed that up with a World Championship in 1990 and a silver medal at the 1998 Olympics, in which he scored nine goals in six games and was named the top forward of the tournament.
Bure has the Hall of Fame credentials to be sure. His day will undoubtedly come. It’s too bad the selection committee will have to be shamed into inducting him far too late the way it did with Anderson.
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