VANCOUVER – For a few moments Pavel Bure travelled back in time Saturday night.
One of the most exciting players to ever dress for the Vancouver Canucks admitted it was an emotional experience to have his jersey retired.
“It was a great feeling,” said Bure, nicknamed the Russian Rocket, after his No. 10 was raised to the rafters at Rogers Arena prior to the Canucks playing the Toronto Maple Leafs in a nationally televised NHL game.
“It brings back lots of great memories. With the fans cheering and everybody happy, it was like you scored a goal. I felt like I had to play again. I was in the middle of the ice and 20,000 people were cheering for me.”
The crowd, many wearing Leaf jerseys, chanted “Bure, Bure.”
During a 12-year career with Vancouver, Florida and the New York Rangers, Bure scored 437 goals and added 342 assists in 702 games.
As a Canuck he scored 254 goals, won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 1992, had five 50-goal seasons and registered consecutive 60-goal seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94. During Vancouver’s 1994 run to the Stanley Cup final Bure had 31 points in 24 games.
In 2012, Bure became the only Canuck player to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Joining Bure at centre ice during the ceremony were the Canucks owners, general manager Mike Gillis, former Canuck GM Pat Quinn and Gino Odjick, Bure’s former teammate and long-time friend. Also attending was Bure’s mother Tatyana and wife Alina Khasanova.
Gillis, who was once Bure’s agent, said he was proud to share the event with his former client.
“The moment you became a Canuck you changed the landscape of hockey in Vancouver,” Gillis said. “Everyone was captivated by the Russian Rocket.”
Bure’s jersey is the fourth retired number at Rogers Arena. It will hang beside Stan Smyle’s No. 12, Trevor Linden’s No. 16 and Markus Naslund’s No. 19.
Smyle and Naslund both attended the ceremony. Linden, who was captain for six of Bure’s seven seasons in Vancouver, had a commitment in the United States and could not attend. He did appear in a video tribute during the game.
Bure’s legacy in Vancouver was tarnished when he refused to play for the Canucks in the 1998-99 season, forcing a trade to Florida.
Showing the same fluid moves he once used on the ice, Bure easily sidestepped questions on whether he thought the Canucks would retire his jersey.
“My thoughts are it was a great night,” said the 42-year-old. “It’s probably the biggest honour you can get. I’m really pleased.”
Asked if he was nervous, Bure said he wasn’t until Wayne Gretzky called him earlier in the day.
“I knew it was a big deal,” Bure laughed.
Besides retiring his jersey, the Canucks announced they will name the team’s most exciting player award after Bure. The Canucks and B.C. Hockey have also established a Pavel Bure Award for minor hockey players who best exemplify the values of “integrity, passion, teamwork and courage.”
Any hard feelings Canuck fans had toward Bure looked to be forgotten as they gave the former superstar a standing ovation.
“To all of you . . . thank you for all the cheers,” Bure told the crowd. “I will never forget those years we spent together.
“Nobody deserves a Stanley Cup more than you. And it’s going to happen. I know. Thank you for night, thanks from the bottom of my heart.”
Ahead of the game, many fans were Tweeting about their excitement, along with pictures of tonight’s game tickets and Bure jerseys.
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Watch: The entire ceremony of Pavel Bure’s jersey retirement