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Pavel Bure’s number to be retired by Canucks? Commence intense debate on worthiness

Greg Wyshynski
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(UPDATE: The Vancouver Sun claims that this was all news to Canucks staffers and that such a plan may not exist. But after the public discourse on this one, tough for the team to ignore the outcry for it to happen.)

Pavel Bure will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, and it's an honor few hockey fans found controversial — his sample size of 702 games might have been a sticking point, but his goals-per-game ratio (0.623) is fifth best in NHL history.

You want real controversy? How about hoisting Bure's jersey number to the rafters in Vancouver?

[Also: Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist slams Swedish League on Twitter]

While Gino Odjick isn't exactly the firmest of sources, he tells Jason Botchford of The Province that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini will fly to Toronto for the induction of the franchise's first Hall of Famer, and will there inform Bure that his number will join Stan Smyl, Trevor Linden and Markus Naslund as officially retired Vancouver sweaters.

Bure played 428 games with the Canucks, with a stellar 1.12 points-per-game ratio. He won the Calder as a rookie with Vancouver in 1991-92. Later, with the Florida Panthers, he achieved even more outstanding accomplishments, some of which didn't involve Anna Kournikova.

The Russian Rocket's backers see it has a long overdue honor. His detractors feel it's one he shouldn't achieve with the Vancouver Canucks. It's been quite a debate.

From The Province:

For some, being the most talented player in team history will never be enough. Bure will never be lovable enough. There weren't enough community photo-ops. He was a private man who struggled to be comfortable in public, especially with fans. There was the unverified, and vehemently denied, story that Bure threatened a holdout during the run to the Cup final in 1994 because of contract demands.

And when he felt mistreated, and lied to, he wanted to leave. He was vilified for it, and continues to be, because he was unwilling to play the part of obedient lap dog.

That's a reference to Bure's 1998 declaration that he would no longer play for the Canucks, despite having a year left on his deal. He left to play in Russia, held out the some of the 1998-99 season and was eventually traded to the Florida Panthers in Jan. 1999.

[More: Habs' Scott Gomez changes mind, set to play in Alaska]

Should the Canucks overlook what many feel was insubordination to honor Bure? The TV Coaches' "kylatherose" says no:

While not every player needs to emulate Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure did not share his love for the city or the team. I will always respect Pavel Bure for what he did during his time in Vancouver. He sold out games, he made more people Canuck fans, and he brought new life to the game. However, I just don't understand how any Canuck fan would want his number retired. He was not the leader he could have been, and he caused drama at times. He demanded a trade from the Canucks, and when they did not trade him immediately, he missed part of the season because he would rather not play in the NHL than play for the Canucks. In my mind, that is not a true Canuck.

In the other corner is, well, a true Canuck: Pat Quinn. The former Vancouver coach said in this June 2012 interview:

"If you're going to recognize anybody, you probably should recognize the most electrifying player we've ever had in uniform. We've had some great players, but nobody, nobody, was as electrifying as him."

Number retirements aren't really something for national debate. It's a decision for the fan base to chew on.

That said: Bure didn't handle himself well off the ice during his time in Vancouver. He was immature and mutinous. The question for Vancouver fans is whether that can be forgiven in light of his accomplishments on the ice and the fact that he enters the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest talents in NHL history — and someone synonymous with the Vancouver Canucks in the eyes of many fans.

We'd say "yes." But those aren't our rafters.

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