So apparently there is a whole big to-do over the fact that Pavel Bure, who's very deservedly going into the Hockey Hall of Fame, may also get his number retired by the Canucks at some point in the indeterminate future. (Although it seems this fact is now the topic of some debate.)
[Nick Cotsonika: Oh, the memories: Two weeks on the NHL beat in Europe]
If they are indeed retiring his jersey, the reason this is a big deal is that, as you'll recall, Bure kind of shot his way out of town and may or may not have threatened to sit out games in 1994 over a contract dispute.
The latter fact, by the way, has been denied up and down by all involved; and given that the team obliged his request to ship him out of town and has, for the longest time, been under no obligation to carry water for him, it seems likely that if it were in any way true someone, at some point, would have said something along the lines of, "Oh yeah, he totally threatened that holdout," by now.
He did, to be fair, hold out four years later, and was eventually traded for Ed Jovanovski among other pieces, and thus the acrimony among a particularly sad subset of Canucks fans has been allowed to fester lo these last 13 years or so. And those 13 years of hard feelings and what-ifs are apparently enough to begrudge a player who is clearly the best to ever pull on a Vancouver sweater his being honored by the team that he personally led to perhaps its greatest glory, and certainly, its first shot at real relevance in this league. The way people talk about him, you'd think the guy left a couple babies, a litter of puppies and a fourth-line winger in a hot car with the windows rolled up, instead of what he actually did, which is "not love living and playing in Vancouver." Not that you could really tell from the on-ice performance.
The guy played like five full(ish) seasons for Vancouver and scored 50-plus goals in three of them. In fact, in two of those, he scored 60. Perhaps the most indelible memory of anything Canucks-related in hockey's collective conscious (if we limit it to on-ice events and not their dumb ass fans burning the city down) is Bure's overtime goal in Game 7 against Calgary. There's no law that says you have to like the guy, I guess, but you can't sit there and act like he's anything less than the best Canuck of all time.
Like Ian MacIntyre, normally level-headed Canucks blogger Thomas Drance, whom I quite like, says that asking out of a city and holding out is enough to disqualify anyone — doesn't matter who — from having their number retired.
Teams are obviously well within their rights to retire any old jersey they like, and there are few better examples of this than the first Canucks' jersey retirement: Stan Smyl, who was a fine player but hardly the kind whose legacy would be besmirched by someone pulling on his, ahem, famous No. 12, which I had to look up because who knows or cares what number Stan Smyl wore?
(For the record, the most egregious example of this is the Rangers retiring Adam Graves' No. 9, because Adam Graves was awful.)
The Canucks let hockey luminaries such as Brad May and Trevor Letowski, among others, wear Bure's No. 10 in the intervening years, and that alone is reason to think he's suffered enough here.
I guess the real question for opponents of the potential move here is, "What does Bure have to do to be deserving?"
If the answer is anything but invent a time machine and go back and stay in Vancouver forever and everyone will love him, I'd be pretty shocked. I know it's very much like Canuck fans to hold fast to un-reasonability to the very end, when overwhelming evidence finally becomes too much to ignore (see also: the great debate over whether the Sedins were first-line players circa 2007-08 or so) but at some point you have to let go of old grudges and say, "Yeah wow I guess I'm being pretty silly here because man Pavel Bure is the reason anyone in this city at all likes this team in the first place."
You might think he spit in your face, and you might think he's a no-good jerk beneath your contempt. But if you're going to sit here and say a player with his talent level doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Smyl, Trevor Linden or Markus Naslund, you're being intentionally obtuse. People made a big deal last year of the team's attempt to bring him back into the fold for its 40th anniversary, and his subsequent refusal to do so despite the wishes of current GM Mike Gillis, who was his agent during the holdout-and-trade hubbub.
The thing is, why should he want to come back if this is the kind of treatment he get not only from the fans, but the media as well?
Here's a solution I think is really pretty simple for all this. No matter what other circumstances arose during your career, if you are the best player in franchise history, for any franchise, you get your number retired, and no one gets to argue about it. Period. It's really simple. It might also not be especially necessary.
From what I can tell, most teams already have this policy in place as a fairly hard and fast rule. With the exception of teams which don't have any retired numbers (new franchises like Anaheim, Columbus, Florida, and Nashville) or those for which their best players ever are currently playing or retired very recently (Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey, also Anaheim), every best-player-in-franchise-history got to have a gander at his number going up into the rafters.
Not so with the Canucks, for stupid, petty reasons. Difficult to explain it any other way.
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