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Pavel Vladimirovich Bure ( ; born March 31, 1971) is a retired Russian professional ice hockey right winger. Nicknamed The Russian Rocket for his speed, he played 12 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) with the Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. Trained in Russia, where he is known as Pasha, he played three seasons with the Central Red Army team before his NHL career.

Selected 113th overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver, he began his NHL career in 1991–92 and won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league's best rookie, then helped the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994. After seven seasons with the Canucks, Bure was dealt to the Panthers, where he won back-to-back Rocket Richard Trophies as the league's leading goal-scorer (he also led the league in goal scoring with Vancouver in 1993–94, before the trophy's inauguration). After struggling with knee injuries throughout his career, Bure retired prematurely in 2005 as a member of the Rangers.

Internationally, Bure competed for the Soviet Union and Russia. As a member of the Soviet Union, he won two silver medals and a gold in three World Junior Championships followed by a gold and silver medal in the 1990 and 1991 World Championships, respectively. After the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, Bure competed in two Winter Olympics, winning silver at the 1998 Games in Nagano and bronze at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake Citymarker. Following Bure's retirement in 2005, he was named the general manager for Russia's national team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turinmarker.

Early life

Bure was born in Moscow to Vladimir Bure and Tatiana Gvovana on March 31, 1971. At age 12, his parents separated and Bure remained with his mother. Vladimir, a Russian swimming legend, had dreams of Bure becoming a professional swimmer, but Bure aspired to play hockey at an early age. He attended his first tryout with the CSKA Moscow hockey school at the age of six despite limited skating ability. Up until that point, Bure had only played hockey on the streets with a ball. After Bure failed to impress in his first tryout, his father told him that if he did not show significant improvement within two months, he would withdraw him from the hockey school.

He quickly developed his abilities and by age 11, he was named the best forward in his league. Around that time, in July 1982, Bure was selected among just three young Russian players to practice with Wayne Gretzky and Soviet national goaltender Vladislav Tretiak in a taped television special. By the time he was 14 years old, he was named to the Central Red Army's junior team.

In December 1986, he embarked on a tour of Canada, spanning from Ottawamarker to Vancouvermarker, with the Soviet national midget team. Nearly five years before Bure made his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks in 1991 at the Pacific Coliseummarker, he played his first game at his future home rink as part of the tour. Bure also earned another opportunity to meet Gretzky, as well as defenceman Paul Coffey, when his team stopped in Edmontonmarker to play at the Northlands Coliseummarker.

Playing career

Central Red Army (1987–1991)

Bure began his professional hockey career at the age of 16, playing for the Central Red Army team. He was invited to the senior club's training camp for the 1987–88 season and although he was deemed too young and not yet ready for the Soviet League, Bure earned minimal playing time filling in for absent regulars. He made his debut in September 1987 when the club briefly lost several players to the 1987 Canada Cup; Bure went on to play in five games total that season. He scored his first professional goal for CSKA Moscow while playing on the fourth line in his senior club debut.

Bure joined the club full-time in 1988–89 and amassed a record-setting 17 goals, the largest single-season total for any first-year player in the Soviet League, in his rookie season to earn rookie of the year honours. His mark for most goals by a rookie stood for 18 years before New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov broke the record by one goal in 2006–07. Bure's individual success helped CSKA Moscow capture their thirteenth consecutive Soviet championship and eleventh consecutive IIHF European Champions Cup in 1989 (they would repeat as European champions the following year).

As a member of the Moscowmarker-based club, Bure joined a lineup that featured several future NHLers, including linemates Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Mogilny, as well as Igor Larionov, Slava Fetisov and Sergei Makarov. The combination of Bure, Fedorov and Mogilny formed a line of much promise for head coach Viktor Tikhonov, with expectations to replace the previous top Soviet line, the K-L-M combination of Vladimir Krutov, Larionov and Makarov. However, the trio was short-lived, as Mogilny defected to play for the Buffalo Sabres in 1989 and Fedorov followed suit with the Detroit Red Wings the following year.

In his third and final season with the Red Army, Bure tied for the lead in team-scoring with Valeri Kamensky, tallying 46 points. His 35 goals was second in league goal-scoring, just one goal behind Ramil Yuldashev of Sokil Kyiv. That off-season, in August 1991, Bure was offered a three-year contract extension with CSKA Moscow, which he turned down. As a result, the Soviet national team left Bure off their roster for the upcoming 1991 Canada Cup.

Vancouver Canucks (1991–1999)

Bure was selected 113th overall in the 6th round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks, following his rookie season with CSKA Moscow. The pick was highly controversial as the Canucks had chosen him seemingly a year ahead of his eligible draft season. At the age of 18, he was available to be chosen in the first three rounds of the draft, but in order to be selected any later than that, he would had to have played in at least two seasons (with a minimum of 11 games per season) for his elite-level European club, the Central Red Army. However, the Canucks' head scout at the time, Mike Penny, discovered that Bure had played in additional exhibition and international games to make him an eligible late-round draft choice a year early. Several other teams had similar knowledge, but there was confusion as to the legitimacy of the extra games. The Detroit Red Wings had inquired to league vice president Gil Stein as to Bure's supposed availability prior to their fifth-round pick, but were told that he was not eligible.

General manager Pat Quinn originally intended to draft Bure in the eighth round, but after receiving word that the Edmonton Oilers had similar intentions, he selected him in the sixth. Team executives reportedly stormed the Met Centermarker stage in Minnesotamarker, where the draft was being held, protesting the choice immediately following its announcement. The Hartford Whalers and Washington Capitals then filed formal complaints to the league, resulting in an investigation into the selection. After originally being deemed illegal by league president John Ziegler in a press release on May 17, 1990, the Canucks appealed the decision, procuring game sheets proving Bure's participation in the additional games with the help of recent Soviet acquisition Igor Larionov. It was not until the eve of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, in which Bure would have been re-entered, that the draft choice was upheld.

The Canucks met further resistance the following year from the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation, who called for Bure's contract with the Central Red Army to be upheld before he signed with an NHL club. The two sides met in late-October 1991 in a Detroitmarker court, where they bartered for a cash settlement. After the Canucks offered $200,000, Bure stood up in the courtroom to offer an additional $50,000, bringing the total to $250,000. The Russian officials accepted and Canucks management paid the full $250,000. Bure was signed to a four-year contract soon thereafter, on October 31, worth a reported $2.7 million with an $800,000 signing bonus. The deal made him the Canucks' second highest paid player behind team captain Trevor Linden, who had just recently signed a four-year, $3.7 million contract.

Due to the court proceedings, Bure's Canucks debut in 1991–92 was delayed until a month into the season. Beginning to garner much attention in Vancouver, his first practice with the club on November 3, 1991, was attended by approximately 2,000 fans, a significantly large number as team practices are not typically well-attended. He played his first game for the Canucks on November 5, 1991, in a 3–3 tie against the Winnipeg Jets. Despite being kept off the scoresheet in his NHL debut, Bure showcased his talent and speed with several end-to-end rushes, carrying the puck past several defenders from near his defensive zone to the opposing net. Following the game, Vancouver Sun columnist Iain MacIntyre compared him to a rocket, calling him "the fastest Soviet creation since Sputnik". MacIntyre's comments are credited for having laid the groundwork for Bure's moniker as the "Russian Rocket". It took Bure until his third game, a 6–0 win against the New York Islanders, to record his first point, an assist on a Cliff Ronning goal. He scored his first NHL goal, part of a two-goal effort, the next game on November 12 against Daniel Berthiaume of the Los Angeles Kings in an 8–2 win. He went on to score 34 goals and 60 points in 65 games that season, including 22 goals in his final 23 games. In the last game of the regular season, Bure scored a goal to tie Ivan Hlinka's 1981–82 team mark for most points by a rookie. Bure's addition to the Canucks lineup bolstered a core that featured Linden and goaltender Kirk McLean, a previous Vezina Trophy nominee in 1989 and 1992 as the league's best goaltender, helping the Canucks to their first of two consecutive Smythe Division titles.

As the Canucks opened the 1992 playoffs against the Winnipeg Jets, Bure recorded his first NHL hat trick in game six to help force a seventh and deciding game. Vancouver won the series to advance to the second round, but were then eliminated by the Edmonton Oilers. Bure finished his first Stanley Cup playoffs with 6 goals and 10 points in 13 post-season games. At the end of the season, Bure was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year over Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidström. His 60 points were second among first-year players to Tony Amonte's 69 points with the New York Rangers, although Bure played in 14 less games. When accepting the award, he thanked Canucks linemate and countryman Igor Larionov for his guidance during his rookie season. On arriving in Vancouvermarker, the former Red Army teammate took Bure into his North Vancouver home for his first two weeks in the city before Bure moved into his own downtown apartment. The two additionally roomed together on the road. Bure's Calder Trophy, along with head coach Pat Quinn's Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach, marked the first major individual NHL awards to be given to any Canuck in team history. Despite being distinguished as the league's top rookie, however, Bure was left off the NHL All-Rookie Team, making him the only Calder recipient to not be named to the lineup. He was left off the All-Rookie Team because he split his time playing both left and right wing. When it came to voting for the players, Bure had the most total votes, but not enough to claim a spot.

Bure improved on his highly successful rookie campaign in 1992–93 to reel off his first of two consecutive 60-goal efforts. In the third game of the season, Bure scored a career-high four goals against the Winnipeg Jets. He scored three goals and added an assist in the second period alone to set a pair of Canucks records for most goals and points in a period, in addition to the team mark for most goals overall in a game (tied with several players). Furthermore, Bure scored two of his goals on the penalty kill to set a fourth team record for most short handed goals in one contest. Bure appeared in his first NHL All-Star Game that season in 1993, being named to the Clarence Campbell Conference Team as the lone Canucks representative. He scored two goals in his All-Star debut in a 16–6 loss to the Wales Conference. Shortly following the All-Star break, Bure established a new franchise record for goals in a season, surpassing Tony Tanti's 44-goal mark in a 5–1 win over the Quebec Nordiques. The next month, on March 1, Bure reached the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career, scoring against Grant Fuhr of the Buffalo Sabres in a neutral-site game in Hamiltonmarker, Ontariomarker. He also became, in the process, the first Canuck to reach the 50-goal milestone. Bure reached another club mark on March 9, breaking the Canucks' single-season points record of 91, previously held by Patrik Sundström. He broke the record with two assists in a 7–2 win against the New Jersey Devils. Bure eventually finished the season with 110 points in 82 games and became the first Canuck named to the NHL First All-Star Team.

Bure suffered his first career injury early in the 1993–94 season, pulling his groin on October 23, 1993, against the San Jose Sharks. Despite the injury, Bure was allowed to play the next night against the Sharks, but had to be helped off the ice on his first shift after re-injuring his groin. Although he missed eight games with the injury, Bure led the league in scoring by repeating his 60-goal feat from the previous season. In doing so, he became just the eighth player in NHL history to record back-to-back 60-goal campaigns. He finished the season on the strength of a 19-goal, 30-point month of March that saw him be named player of the month for the 16-game stretch. The scoring burst was just one point shy of Stan Smyl's 31-point March in 1983 for the most productive month by a Canucks player. Bure's 154 NHL goals at that point in his career put him behind only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most in any NHL player's first three seasons.

Entering the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the seventh seed, Bure helped lead the Canucks on a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. In the seventh game of the opening round series against the Calgary Flames, Bure scored one of the most significant and well-known goals in Canucks history. Deking Flames goalie Mike Vernon on a breakaway in the second overtime, Bure advanced the Canucks past Calgary to the second round against the Dallas Stars. In a physical game two against the Stars, Bure sent enforcer Shane Churla to the ice with an elbow to the jaw. The hit came after Bure had previously been cross-checked from behind by defenceman Craig Ludwig and hit in the head by Churla while he was still on his knees on the ice. Bure also scored two goals in the game to help Vancouver to a 3–0 win. Although Bure was not initially penalized for the play, he later received a $500 fine from the league. After defeating Dallas in five games, the Canucks then eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Campbell Conference Finals to meet the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. With the series tied 1–1, Bure was ejected in game three after delivering a high stick to Rangers defenceman Jay Wells. Bure's stick caught Wells beneath the eye, drawing blood, resulting in a five-minute major and a game misconduct. With Bure out of the game, the Canucks dropped the contest 5–1 at the Coliseum. Returning in game four, Bure was hauled down by Rangers defenceman Brian Leetch on a breakway, setting up a penalty shot against Mike Richter. Should Bure have scored, the Canucks would have increased their lead to 3–1, but Richter made the save and Vancouver eventually lost the game 4–2. The loss put the Canucks at the brink of defeat in the series. However, when Vancouver won game five in New Yorkmarker, on the strength of Bure's two goals, and game six in Vancouver, the series was pushed to seven games. In the deciding game, the Rangers ended Vancouver's playoff run by a 3–2 score to capture the Stanley Cup. Bure finished with a team-high 16 goals and 31 points in 24 games, second in playoff scoring only to Conn Smythe winner Brian Leetch. His points total also remained as the highest by any Russian player until Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins recorded 36 in 2009.

In the subsequent off-season, the Canucks announced, on June 16, that Bure re-signed to a five-year, $24.5 million contract. The deal, which also put Bure's father, Vladimir, on the team payroll as a fitness and marketing consultant, was reported to have been signed prior to game three of the Stanley Cup Finals against New York. Averaging out to an annual salary of $4.9 million, Bure became the league's third highest-paid player, behind Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Bure and the Canucks had, in fact, entered into contract negotiations at the beginning of the 1993–94 season, although two years remained in his original deal. However, neither side could come to an initial agreement; one of the major factors was the Canucks' demands for the contract to be in Canadian dollars on account of the American exchange rate. Numerous accusations of extortion were made in the media during the Canucks' playoff run that Bure threatened not to play if a contract could not be agreed upon. A Toronto Star article published leading up to the first game of the Finals on May 31, 1994, claimed that Bure had signed a five-year, $30 million contract that, if the Canucks had not agreed to, would have seen him pull out of game five of the Conference Finals against the Maple Leafs. The article was followed by two additional claims in the following two days in the Vancouver-based newspaper The Province and Toronto Sun, the latter of which held that the contract was a four-year deal, rather than five, and that it was signed prior to either game six or seven of the opening round against the Flames after Bure's agent, Ron Salcer, told general manager Quinn that Bure would not play if the deal was not made. As the story continued well into the next season, Pat Quinn appeared in a segment on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)'s Hockey Night in Canada with host Ron MacLean on March 27, 1995, publicly denying the claims.

Due to the 1994–95 NHL lockout, Bure spent brief single game stints with HC Spartak Moscow of the Russian Super League and EV Landshut of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). He also joined a team of Russian NHL players organized by Slava Fetisov that returned to Russia to play a five-game charity tour against local clubs. On the team, Bure was reunited with former Central Red Army linemates Mogilny and Fedorov. When the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) and owners came to an agreement on January 12, 1995, NHL play was set to resume. However, there were unresolved contract issues as Salcer claimed that the Canucks promised they would pay Bure's full salary despite the lockout, which cancelled nearly half of the 1994–95 season. Bure held out for four days as a result, before the two sides reached an agreement that the Canucks would put the disputed amount in escrow and would continue discussions. He soon reported to Vancouver and went on to tally 43 points in 44 games of the shortened season. He spent the season with a rotation of linemates, taking turns being centred by Trevor Linden, Cliff Ronning and rookie Michael Peca. Bure had lacked a consistent linemate since he was centred by fellow Soviets Igor Larionov and Anatoli Semenov in each of his first two seasons. Nevertheless, in the 1995 playoffs, Bure set franchise records for most goals and points in one series with 7 and 12 respectively in a seven-game series victory against the St. Louis Blues. The Canucks, however, failed to defend their Clarence Campbell Trophy title, being swept by the Chicago Blackhawks in round two. In the fourth and final playoff game against the Blackhawks, Bure left the contest early in the third period with a rib injury. The Canucks' elimination in 1995 marked the last time Bure would appear in the post-season with the club. He finished with a career total of 66 points with the Canucks, including 34 goals, which remained the highest club total until Linden tied the mark in 2007.

At the start of the 1995–96 season, Bure changed his jersey number from 10 to 96. The switch commemorated the day in which he first landed in North American from Moscow, on September 6, 1991 (9th month, 6th day). He had originally requested to wear the number when he first joined the Canucks, but was not permitted by head coach Pat Quinn, who did not approve of high jersey numbers. However, after the Canucks pulled a deal with the Buffalo Sabres to reunite Bure with Alexander Mogilny, the jersey number was deemed acceptable in lieu of Mogilny's number 89. Early in the season, Bure sustained the first of what was to be several serious knee injuries during his career. On November 9, 1995, in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Bure received a hit from defenceman Steve Smith in the first period, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. Requiring arthroscopic surgery, in which tendon was removed from his hamstring to repair the ACL, he was sidelined for the remainder of the season. Without Bure, the Canucks still managed to make the 1996 playoffs on the strength of an offence led by Linden and Mogilny, but were defeated in six games of the opening round by the Colorado Avalanche, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Bure returned to the Canucks lineup with his knee fully recovered in the 1996–97 season. Competing for Russia in an exhibition match for the 1996 World Cup in August, he had suffered another setback with a bruised kidney and was sidelined for three weeks, but was able to recover in time for the NHL season. In the season opener against the Calgary Flames, on October 5, 1996, however, Bure was pushed into the boards head first while carrying the puck by rookie defenceman Todd Simpson. Although he continued to play and did not miss any games soon thereafter, head coach Tom Renney admitted that Bure was still experiencing headaches a couple of weeks after the hit. As Bure's play dropped early in the season, speculation began that he was playing injured. After a point in which Bure went eight games without a goal, Renney claimed that he was not playing with a head injury, but instead had injured his shoulder in a game against the New York Rangers on November 23. Nevertheless, Bure continued to play. With under a month left in the season, he received another hit, this time from defenceman Aaron Miller of the Colorado Avalanche during a game on March 3, 1997. He left the game and did not return for the remainder of the season. Afterwards, Bure admitted that he was playing with a neck injury, having sustained whiplash from the first game against Calgary, but did not want to take himself out of the lineup after having missed 62 games the previous season. With Bure's reduced playing capacity, he managed just 55 points in 63 games, well below his usual pace, and the Canucks missed the playoffs for the first time since Bure joined the team.

In the proceeding off-season, the Canucks pulled off another significant move, signing Rangers captain Mark Messier during free agency on July 26, 1997. Despite finally having a high-profile centre to play with, reports in the media began soon thereafter that Bure was requesting to be traded, starting with an article published by The Province on August 26, 1997, by Tony Gallagher. Regardless, Bure and the Canucks opened the season with two games against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Tokyomarker, Japanmarker – an event organized by the league to market hockey for the upcoming 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. After two injury-plagued seasons with the number 96 on his jersey, Bure switched back to his familiar number 10, explaining that "I'm not superstitious, but the last two seasons have been bad memories." Although the Canucks missed the playoffs for the second straight year, he returned to top form in 1997–98, notching his third 50-goal campaign, his first since 1993–94, scoring 51 goals and finishing third in the NHL, behind Peter Forsberg and Jaromír Jágr, with 90 points. Bure scored what would be his last goal as a Canuck in the last game of the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs, his 254th with the team. The total left him just eight goals shy of Stan Smyl's all-time franchise record of 262 goals, which was later surpassed by Trevor Linden and Markus Näslund.

Following the 1997–98 season, Bure told newly appointed general manager Brian Burke in a meeting between the two on July 5, 1998, that he would not play for the Canucks again, despite still having a year left in his contract worth $8 million. Bure then went public with the declaration the following month, stating that he intended to leave the club for "personal reasons". True to his word, Bure did not report to the club the following campaign. He instead went back to his hometown Moscow to practice with his former Central Red Army club. During this time, Belarusianmarker president Alexander Lukashenko offered Bure a tax-free $4 million salary to play in Belarus, which Bure turned down.

Florida Panthers (1999–2002)

Bure held out well into the 1998–99 season until he was traded on January 17, 1999, to the Florida Panthers, with Bret Hedican, Brad Ference, and Vancouver's third-round choice in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft (Robert Fried) for Ed Jovanovski, Dave Gagner, Mike Brown, Kevin Weekes, and Florida's first-round choice in the 2000 draft (Nathan Smith). Talks between general managers Burke and Bryan Murray had begun in late-December, with the two meeting at the 1999 World Junior Championships in Winnipegmarker. After the trade was completed, Bure explained in a joint-interview with the Toronto Sun and The Province that he felt he was alienated by Canucks management ever since arriving in North America from Moscow. He cited having stayed in Los Angelesmarker for two weeks before any Canucks representative came down to see him, in addition to several bitter contract negotiations. Bure also claimed that the constant allegations of him threatening not to play during the 1994 playoff run were planted by someone within Canucks management.

Meeting the Panthers in New York for a game against the Islanders, Bure debuted with his new club on January 20, 1999. He played on an all-Russian line with Viktor Kozlov and Oleg Kvasha and scored two goals to help the Panthers to a 5–1 win. In his first six games with the club, Bure scored eight goals and three assists for eleven points. Less than a month into his Panthers debut, he suffered a strained right knee in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 5. He sustained the injury while attempting to kick a loose puck in the first period of the game. Despite the injury, the Panthers announced three days later that Bure had signed to a five-year, $47.5 million deal (with an option for a sixth year at $10.5 million), the most lucrative in team history.

After being out of the lineup for nearly three weeks, Bure returned to appear in five more games, but was sidelined once more for the rest of the campaign with another knee injury, suffered on March 3 after a collision with defenceman Adam Foote in a game against the Colorado Avalanche. After initial arthroscopic surgery revealed that his right ACL was not functioning, Bure underwent further reconstructive surgery on March 29. Due to his holdout from Vancouver and the two immediate injuries in Florida, Bure appeared in just 11 games that season, but still managed to record 13 goals and 3 assists for 16 points.

In his first full season as a Panther, in 1999–2000, Bure led the league in goal-scoring to capture his first of two consecutive Rocket Richard Trophies with a 58-goal effort. It marked the second time Bure led the league in scoring, but his first Rocket Richard Trophy as the award had just been inducted the previous season. Complemented by 36 assists, his 58 goals and 94 points both finished as franchise record-setting marks for single-season totals. Bure helped Florida to a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference to earn their first post-season berth in three seasons. They were, however, swept in the opening round by the eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils. It would be Bure's final appearance in the NHL playoffs.

Bure had been set to make his much-anticipated return to Vancouver to play the Canucks early in the season on November 5, 1999, but was instead kept out of the lineup due to a broken finger suffered in a game against the Edmonton Oilers. The injury came after having previously missed five games to a groin injury, which kept him out of a home game against the Canucks, as well. During the season, he was also named to the 2000 NHL All-Star Game in Torontomarker, where he recorded an assist and the 11th hat trick in the history of the All-Star Game. Of Bure's three goals, two were assisted by his brother Valeri, who played on the same line with Bure, along with Bure's Panthers linemate, Viktor Kozlov. Helping lead the World team to a 9–4 victory over North America, Bure was named the All-Star Game MVP.

Bure repeated as league scoring champion in 2000–01 with 59 goals, reaching the 50-goal plateau for the fifth and final time in his career, as well as bettering his franchise single-season goal-scoring record. Without much secondary scoring, however (the second leading scorer on the team was Viktor Kozlov with just 37 points), the Panthers missed out on the playoffs, finishing 12th place in the East. Bure set a league record that season by scoring 29.5% of his team's total goals over the course of the campaign.

Prior to the 2001–02 season, the Panthers acquired Valeri Bure from the Calgary Flames in a trade, reuniting the two brothers under the same team. Bure, however, suffered a setback in the pre-season, re-injuring his groin. After the season began, he was further sidelined for seven games in November and December due to a concussion. He sustained the head injury during a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 19, 2001, after he was checked into the glass by forward Darcy Tucker. Several days after returning to the lineup, on December 16, 2001, Bure reached the 700-point mark with two assists and an empty netter in a 3–1 win over the New York Islanders. At the trading deadline, Bure was dealt to the New York Rangers and despite only appearing in 56 games for the Panthers that season, he led the team in scoring for the third consecutive campaign with 49 points.

New York Rangers (2002–2003)

The New York Rangers acquired Bure on March 18, 2002, along with Florida's second-round pick in the 2002 draft (Lee Falardeau) for Igor Ulanov, Filip Novak, as well as the Rangers' first and second-round choices in the 2002 draft (Petr Tatíček and Rob Globke, respectively) and a fourth-round choice in the 2003 draft. The Rangers had shown initial interest in Bure when he was originally shopped by the Canucks in 1997. After losing their initial bid for Bure, Wayne Gretzky, who retired the same season Bure was dealt to Florida, announced prior to the 1999–00 campaign that he would have extended his career had the Rangers been able to pull the trade off. Bure made his Rangers debut against the Vancouver Canucks the following day after his trade on March 19, scoring a goal in a 3–1 loss to his former team. He immediately clicked with the Rangers, scoring 12 goals and 20 points in 12 games upon being traded, up from his sub-point-per-game pace with Florida that season. Between the two teams, he finished the season with 34 goals and 69 points.

Having previously undergone reconstructive knee surgeries in 1995 and 1999, Bure suffered another another injury to his knee in a 2002–03 pre-season matchup with the New Jersey Devils on September 24, 2002. Combined with a case of strep throat, the injury caused him to miss the first three games of the regular season. Bure returned to the lineup to record 14 goals and 21 points in his first 27 games, including two goals and an assist in his first game back, before suffering a knee-on-knee collision with Buffalo Sabres forward Curtis Brown in a game on December 6, 2002. After undergoing surgery 10 days later, it was revealed that there was no damage to the ACL as previously feared, but instead a tear to the meniscus in his left knee, which was repaired. Bure returned that season to appear in 39 games, managing 19 goals and 30 points in the injury-shortened season.

Plagued by injuries throughout his career, Bure did not play in 2003–04 due to lingering effects of the knee injury even after two operations. He failed a pre-season physical and was declared medically unable to play. Left with Bure's fully insured $10 million salary (which would be reimbursed to the team by 80 percent), the Rangers consequently left him unprotected in the NHL's Waiver Draft. He was, however, unclaimed.

Bure remained inactive for another season due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout. Then, after the NHL resumed play for the 2005–06 season, Bure announced his retirement from professional hockey at a press conference in Moscow on November 1, 2005, due to complications with his chronically injured knee. At the same time, it was announced that Bure would be the general manager of Russia's ice hockey team for the 2006 Winter Olympics.

International play

Prior to joining the NHL in 1991, Bure competed in several junior international tournaments for the Soviet Union. The first was the 1988 Quebec Esso Cup, an under-17 tournament (now known as the World U-17 Hockey Challenge) held in Quebec Citymarker, where he earned a gold medal. That same year, he competed in his first of two consecutive European Junior Championships.

The following year, Bure debuted at the world under-20 level as a 17-year-old at the 1989 World Junior Championships in Anchoragemarker, Alaskamarker. The top line of CSKA Moscow teammates Bure, Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Federov led the Soviet Union to a gold medal. Bure's eight goals tied him for the tournament lead with Jeremy Roenick of the United States, in addition to a team-high 14 points. He was named to the Tournament All-Star Team and earned Best Forward honours.

Bure competed in his second World Juniors the following year in 1990, winning a silver medal in Helsinkimarker, Finland, while scoring seven goals in seven games. Later that year, he made his senior debut with the Soviet national team as a 19-year-old at the 1990 World Championships in Switzerlandmarker. He scored two goals and four assists for six points in ten games to help the Soviets to a gold medal finish, winning all three games in the medal round. Despite winning the overall tournament, the Soviets finished with a silver in the European Championship, which took into account only games played amongst European teams during the tournament. Nevertheless, each Soviet player was awarded $10,000 for winning the overall tournament, which Bure used to buy a new Lada. Several months later, in July, Bure took part in his third international tournament of the year at the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattlemarker. Scoring four goals and an assist in five games, Bure and the Soviets captured the gold medal by defeating the United States in the final.

In 1991, Bure appeared in his third and final World Junior Championships. Having won their first four games, the Soviets required only a win in their the second-to-last-game against Finland to clinch the gold medal. After the Finns built a 4–0 lead, Bure led a 5-goal comeback in which he scored his team's final three goals for a natural hat trick. Nevertheless, the Soviets gave up a goal in the final minute of the game to set up a gold medal match against Canada. Despite finishing the tournament as the leading scorer with 12 goals in 7 games, Bure and the Soviets fell to Canada 3–2 to settle for silver. He finished his three-year World Junior career with a tournament-record 27 goals, to go with 39 points, in 21 games. Once again, Bure later competed in the 1991 World Championships for his second international appearance of the year. He improved on his previous year's senior total with 11 points in 11 games, tied for the team lead with Valeri Kamensky, helping the Soviets to a bronze medal finish. Bure was named to the tournament's Second All-Star Team. The 1991 team marked the last World Championships that the Soviets played as the USSR, giving way to the union's dissolution later that year.

Prior to the dissolution, Bure was set to represent the Soviet Union at the 1991 Canada Cup several months later in Canadamarker. However, after turning down a three-year contract with his Russian club, CSKA Moscow, he was left off the final roster. Further controversy ensued five years later in the inaugural 1996 World Cup (successor tournament to the Canada Cup). Bure had just recently recovered from reconstructive surgery to his right knee and had begun practicing with the Russian national team, when he refused to sign a petition organized by national team veteran Slava Fetisov. With the Russian Ice Hockey Federation dealing with internal corruption, the petition called for the ouster of a select few Russian ice hockey officials. In response, Bure explained, "I do not sign petitions. I believe I should work – play hockey. Petitions to the federation or to Olympic committees do not interest me." Despite the controversy, Bure would end up not playing in the tournament anyway, as a result of a bruised kidney suffered in an exhibition game against the United States.

Two years later, Bure made his Olympic debut with Russia at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano. He helped lead his team to the gold medal game after an Olympic record five-goal effort in Russia's 7–5 semi-final win against Finland, two of which came on breakaways. Playing the Czech Republic in the final, however, Bure and the Russians were shutout by goaltender Dominik Hašek and lost the gold medal by a 1–0 score. He finished with a tournament-high nine goals to be named the top forward and, while recording no assists, placed third in point-scoring with nine points in six games.

After the Panthers were eliminated in the 2000 playoffs, Bure was added to the Russian roster for the 2000 World Championships, held in Saint Petersburgmarker. Despite playing as tournament hosts, the Russians were not able to make the medal rounds, suffering upset defeats to both Latvia and Belarus. In six games, Bure managed four goals and an assist. Two years later, Bure made his second Olympic appearance at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake Citymarker. Attempting to make his second straight trip to the gold medal game, Bure and the Russians lost in the semi-finals to the United States 3–2. Bure finished his final international tournament as a player with two goals and an assist in six games to go with a bronze medal, having defeated Belarus in the consolation match.

General manager

Upon the announcement of his retirement in 2005, Bure was named Russia's Olympic general manager. He promised to put an end to the Russian Hockey Federation's history of internal conflict and player boycotts, claiming "you won't see such a mess with the national team that you've seen here before", and that "You won't see grouchy players here anymore. Only those who really want to play for Russia will be called into the team." As general manager, Bure chose the team for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turinmarker. The Russians, however, failed to medal, being shutout by the Czech Republic in the bronze medal game. Leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouvermarker, former Soviet national goaltender Vladislav Tretiak was named Bure's successor as Olympic general manager on October 12, 2009.

Playing style

Trained in the Soviet Union under the CSKA Moscow hockey program, Bure's playing style reflected the speed, skill and puck possession that the Soviets held at a premium. The most prevalent aspect of Bure's game was his skating speed and acceleration, which earned him his nickname as the "Russian Rocket". He was able to use his quickness to separate himself from defenders, scoring many of his goals on breakaways. Vancouver Canucks conditioning coach Peter Twist noticed during Bure's rehabilitation period following his first major knee injury in 1995, that his skating style was particularly unique in comparison to typical North American players. He explained, "Most players skate on their inside edge and push off at a 45-degree angle, but Bure starts on his outer edge and rolls over to his inside edge and pushes back straighter on his stride ... he gets more power and force in his stride to get up to top speed quicker."

Bure's skating was also complemented by his ability to deke out defenders and goaltenders at top speeds, making him capable of routinely starting end-to-end rushes. However, several knee injuries and consequent reconstructive surgeries compromised the speed that defined Bure's game, ultimately leading to his retirement in 2005.

Bure's combination of speed and skill made him a particularly exciting player to watch. He won the Canucks' Most Exciting Player Award, as voted by the fans, a team record five times (tied with Tony Tanti) from 19921995 and once more in 1998. Canucks teammate and captain Trevor Linden, who had played with Bure for seven seasons, said following Bure's retirement, "I don't know if I've ever seen or played with a player that's brought people out of their seats like that." During the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, New York Rangers coach Mike Keenan, who later coached Bure for one-and-a-half seasons in Vancouver, called him "perhaps the most electrifying forward in the league".

A highly offensive player, Bure has been described as a pure goal scorer and is statistically among the top players in NHL history in that regard. In addition to having accomplished the 50-goal mark in his career five times and the 60-goal mark twice, his .623 goals per game average is third all-time in NHL history, behind Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux.

Personal life

Bure comes from an athletic family; his father Vladimir, whose lineage is of German ancestry (his side of the family originated from Furnamarker, Switzerland) was an Olympic swimmer who competed for the Soviet Union in the 1968, 1972, and 1976 Olympic Games. He won four medals, including a bronze medal for the 100-metre race in the 1972 Games, in which he lost the gold medal by half a second to American swimming legend Mark Spitz. Bure retained his father as his personal trainer well into his playing career, before severing ties with him in 1997. Bure's grandfather, Valeri Bure, also competed for the Soviet Union in the Olympics as a goalkeeper for the national water polo team. Named after his grandfather, Bure's younger brother Valeri Bure, was also a hockey player, spending 10 years in the NHL. The two siblings played with each other briefly as members of the Florida Panthers, as well as on the Russian national team.

In addition to athleticism, nobility ran in the family. Bure was named after his great-grandfather, a watchmaker to Tsar Alexander III. Bure's family made precious watches for the tsars from 1815–1917; as craftspersons of the imperial family, they were granted noble status. After Bure sustained his first serious knee injury in 1995, Bure pursued the watchmaking business during his rehabilitation period in an attempt to revive the family business. Fifty replicas of the same watches his ancestors sold to the Russian imperial family were made and priced at US$30,000 each. Bure presented three of the gold replicas to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow mayor Yuriy Luzhkov.

Shortly after arriving in North America from Moscow with his father and brother on September 6, 1991 (his mother Tatiana arrived two months later), Bure married an American fashion model in a civil ceremony five days later on September 11. Although his wife's full name was not released at the time, it was later revealed to be Jayme Bohn. The marriage was set up by Bure's agents as a preventative measure against deportation in the event that he and the Canucks could not come to terms with a contract. Bure and Bohn were quickly divorced the following summer and Bohn went on to become a costume designer in the film and television industry.

After being linked to girlfriend Dahn Bryan, a model and actress, early in his NHL career, Bure shared a relationship with tennis star and fellow Russian Anna Kournikova. The two met in 1999 when Kournikova was still linked to Bure's former Russian teammate Sergei Fedorov. Bure and Kournikova were reported to have been engaged in 2000 after a reporter took a photo of them together in a Floridamarker restaurant where Bure supposedly asked Kournikova to marry him. As the story made headlines in Russia, where they were both heavily followed in the media as celebrities, Bure and Kournikova both denied any engagement. Kournikova, 10 years younger than Bure, was 18 years old at the time. The following year, Kournikova and Fedorov were married in Moscow. They were soon divorced, however, and Kournikova then married pop star Enrique Iglesias in 2003.

Despite no longer being linked with each other, Bure and Kounikova continued to controversially make the news after their relationship ended. In 2002, Bure sued Russian newspaper the eXile for publishing an article stating that he broke up with Kournikova on account of her having two vaginas. Although the newspapers' editorial staff claimed the story was a mere joke, the court ruled in favour of Bure in the amount of 500,000 rubles (US$17,770). Furthermore, the eXile was obligated to print another article refuting the previous story. Two years later, on December 27, 2004, Russian cosmetics chain Arbat Prestige published a story in their free promotional paper that Bure had bragged about Kournikova losing her virginity to him. Shortly thereafter, on January 31, 2005, Bure sued the cosmetics chain for 300 million rubles (US$10.65 million) in a Moscow court. He further demanded that Arbat Prestige print a retraction and apology in a future paper, similar to the suit against the eXile. The court ruled in favour of Bure in November 2005. The amount was, however, reduced from 300 million to approximately 320,000 rubles.

During Bure's playing career, much speculation surrounded Russian NHL players and their potential ties to the Russian mafia as both victims and associates. As Soviet players began defecting to the NHL, many cases of extortion began surfacing that the Russian mafia was targeting the players' families still living in Russia. Former teammate Alexander Mogilny was involved in such an extortion attempt in 1994, while Bure was reported to have made payments totaling in the thousands of dollars to Russian extortionists, as well, in 1993. Three years later, however, in 1996, American sports network ESPN reported Bure as a potential associate to the Rusian mafia on account of his relationship with friend and watch-making business partner Anzor Kikalishvili. Kikalishvili was known to both Russian and American police as a suspected criminal and was speculated to be a Russian mob boss. Furthermore, Bure was revealed to hold a position as vice president in sports company Twenty First Century Association, which was owned by Kikalishvili and believed by the Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker (FBI) to be a mafia front worth at least US$100 million in illicit funds. While Bure did not deny his business and personal relationship with Kikalishvili, he refuted the reports that Kikalishvili was involved in any criminal activity. Speculation resurfaced in 1999, as Bure was included in an investigation aired by CBC documentary series fifth estate that made several supposed associations between Soviet NHL players and the Russian mafia. Among the more serious allegations was that former Red Army teammate Slava Fetisov used a company that he was president of to launder money for Vyacheslav Ivankov, considered to be the "Russian godfather" in North America. Meanwhile, Bure's relationship with Kikalishvili continued to be questioned. Bure denied, once again, Kikalishvili's involvement in any criminal activity, dismissing the allegation as "rumours".

During his stay with the Canucks, Bure lived in a mansion on Vancouver's Southwest Marine Drive. He purchased the $1 million, 600,000-square-foot residence in 1994 after having lived in an apartment in Downtown Vancouvermarker overlooking False Creekmarker. He also spent numerous off-seasons during this time in Los Angeles.

Nearly a year after his retirement, on October 31, 2006, Bure filed another suit after being kicked off a British Airways flight by the pilot, having been mistaken for a rowdy soccer fan. Despite an official apology from the airline company in June 2007, Bure took the issue to court, suing British Airways for 20 million rubles. In late-August 2007, the Tver Court of Moscow ruled in favour of Bure in the amount of 57,000 rubles and an additional 10,000 rubles in moral damage.

Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1987–88 HC CSKA Moscow USSR 5 1 1 2 0  —  —  —  —  —
1988–89 HC CSKA Moscow USSR 32 17 9 26 8  —  —  —  —  —
1989–90 HC CSKA Moscow USSR 46 14 11 25 22  —  —  —  —  —
1990–91 HC CSKA Moscow USSR 44 35 11 46 24  —  —  —  —  —
1991–92 Vancouver Canucks NHL 65 34 26 60 30 13 6 4 10 14
1992–93 Vancouver Canucks NHL 82 60 50 110 69 12 5 7 12 8
1993–94 Vancouver Canucks NHL 76 60 47 107 86 24 16 15 31 40
1994–95 HC Spartak Moscow RSL 1 2 0 2 2  —  —  —  —  —
1994–95 EV Landshut DEL 1 3 0 3 2  —  —  —  —  —
1994–95 Vancouver Canucks NHL 44 20 23 43 47 11 7 6 13 10
1995–96 Vancouver Canucks NHL 15 6 7 13 8  —  —  —  —  —
1996–97 Vancouver Canucks NHL 63 23 32 55 40  —  —  —  —  —
1997–98 Vancouver Canucks NHL 82 51 39 90 48  —  —  —  —  —
1998–99 Florida Panthers NHL 11 13 3 16 4  —  —  —  —  —
1999–00 Florida Panthers NHL 74 58 36 94 16 4 1 3 4 2
2000–01 Florida Panthers NHL 82 59 33 92 58  —  —  —  —  —
2001–02 Florida Panthers NHL 56 22 27 49 56  —  —  —  —  —
2001–02 New York Rangers NHL 12 12 8 20 6  —  —  —  —  —
2002–03 New York Rangers NHL 39 19 11 30 16  —  —  —  —  —
NHL totals 702 437 342 779 484 64 35 35 70 74


International

Year Team Event   GP G A P PIM
1988 USSR U17 Stats not available
1988 USSR EJC 6 10 0 10 2
1989 USSR WJC 7 8 6 14 4
1989 USSR EJC 6 5 6 11 4
1990 USSR WJC 7 7 3 10 10
1990 USSR WC 10 2 4 6 10
1991 USSR GG 5 4 1 5
1991 USSR WJC 7 12 3 15 31
1991 USSR WC 10 3 8 11 2
1998 Russia Oly 6 9 0 9 2
2000 Russia WC 6 4 1 5 10
2002 Russia Oly 6 2 1 3 8
Junior int'l totalsa 33 42 18 60 51
Senior int'l totals 43 24 15 39 32b


adoes not include 1988 Quebec Esso Cup (U17)
bdoes not include penalty minutes for the 1991 Goodwill Games


Awards

Soviet

Award Year
Soviet champion (HC CSKA Moscow) 1988, 1989
IIHF European Champions Cup (HC CSKA Moscow) 1988, 1989, 1990
Rookie of the Year 1989


International

Award Year
World Junior Championship Best Forward 1989
World Junior Championship All-Star Team 1989
World Junior Championship gold medal (Soviet Union) 1989
World Championship gold medal (Soviet Union) 1990
World Championship Second All-Star Team 1991
Winter Olympics Best Forward 1998


NHL

Award Year
Calder Memorial Trophy 1992
NHL All-Star Game 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001
NHL First All-Star Team 1994
NHL All-Star Game MVP 2000
NHL Second All-Star Team 2000, 2001
Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy 2000, 2001 (led the league in goals in 1994, prior to trophy's creation)


Vancouver Canucks

Award Year
Most Exciting Player Award 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998
Molson Cup (three-star selection leader) 1992, 1993, 1994, 1998
Cyclone Taylor Trophy (MVP) 1993, 1994, 1998
Cyrus H. McLean Trophy (leading scorer) 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998


Records

Team



International



NHL



Transactions



See also



References

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Bibliography



External links




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