November 13 2012 11:13AM
The first time I saw Pavel Bure was at Northlands (now Rexall Place) when he played against Canada's under-17 Team Pacific. I was in the building watching my brother Colin play for Canada, but two minutes into the game Bure stood out. I remember literally hating the Russians before the game started, however, as the game went on I couldn't take my eyes of off Bure.
I'd never seen a player skate like him. After the game Colin and I talked about how ridiculously fast and explosive Bure was. My brother was an excellent skater, when he went to NHL camps he was one of the quickest, but he said Bure was on a different level. His first few steps were the quickest I'd ever seen, and he was so fast it seemed he could accelerate even when skating laterally. I was 14 years old when I saw Bure for the first time, and it wasn't until four years later that he surfaced again in the NHL. When he joined the Canucks he was even more exciting than I recalled that cold night at Northlands.
Bure was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday, a few years too late if you ask me, and during his highlight reel I pondered if I'd seen a more exciting player in the last 30 years. I'm not suggesting Bure was better than Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, of course not, but as a pure electrifying and dazzling player, there are few who could compare.
I mentioned it briefly on twitter and some suggested Gretzky, Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were more exciting. I politely disagree. They were all better, no doubt, but they didn't possess Bure's speed, agility or quickness. Of all the great, exciting players I've seen in my life, none were more exciting to me than Bure.
This video is just a glimpse of his greatness.
His ability and skill-set at high-speed is what made him so great. Some other players that I'd put in his category from the past few decades include Denis Savard, Alex Ovechkin, Teemu Selanne, Paul Coffey and for a brief time Alex Mogilny. It is hard to define exciting, because many will say Gretzky has to be at the top of the list. Gretzky was more of a surgeon for me. He could beat you with his brain just as much as his skill, but rarely did he overpower you with blazing speed or a quick release.
Liam McGuire, hockey historian, from Ultimate Hockey responded on twitter with, "I saw Guy Lafleur and Gilbert Perreault. Both were unreal. Bure a great call from last 30 years." He also mentioned Bobby Orr, Maurice Richard and Howie Morenz.
@hockeylegends tossed in another great from years past, Bobby Hull. He literally scared opposing goalies and players with his shot, and his ability to release it in flight.
There are few players who consistently bring you out of your seat. I'd argue that Nail Yakupov and Taylor Hall will be more exciting than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. It won't mean they will be better or more productive; they just have a bit more of an exciting/dazzling edge to their game.
Who else would you put in the category of electrifying during the past 30 years?
HALL OF FAME
Every year I look forward to watching the speeches of the greatest players who've ever played the game. Adam Oates' speech last night was one of the best. He had no cue cards, and spoke from the heart. His line to his wife was awesome, "We met near the end of my career. I wish we could have met a little sooner so you could have seen that I was little bit better of a player." A subtle jab at himself while trying to hold back the tears. Excellent stuff.
See the entire speech here.
And now the debate begins regarding who should get in next year.
Unlike baseball, players need to be nominated to get on the ballot, but you can expect that Scott Niedermayer and Chris Chelios will have no shortage of people willing to recommend them for the HHOF.
Niedermayer is a lock to get in. He overcame spending summers with his cousin Jason Strudwick, they clearly went to different power skating camps, to become one of the best players of his era. One of the top-three skating defencemen to ever play, Coffey and Orr, Niedermayer was a joy to watch.
While Niedermayer was universally loved, Chelios was universally hated by every opposing fan base. He had the rare combination of greatness and agitator. Few star players were as mouthy or as outwardly cocky as Chelios was on the ice, but few competed as hard as he did. He should go in on his first ballot.
Brendan Shanahan didn't go in this year because they only allow four players, but he's 13th all-time in goals, 656, and 25th all-time in points, 1,524. He is the only player in NHL history with over 600 goals and 2,000 PIMs. He should go in.
THE FINAL SPOT
The fourth spot, if they choose to fill it, will be contested by the likes of Eric Lindros, Rob Blake, Sergei Makarov, Paul Kariya, Jeremy Roenick, Curtis Joseph and Dave Andreychuk.
If I was voting it would be between Lindros and Makarov. Keep in mind it is the Hockey Hall of Fame, not the NHL Hall of Fame, and Makarov never came to the NHL until he was 31. In 11 seasons in Russia he tallied 303 goals and 678 points in only 465 games. He was one of the best players in the world for a decade; he just wasn't playing in the NHL. It is virtually impossible to compare him to those in the NHL because he never played there, but when you saw him play against Canada you could see how great he was.
Lindros exclusion into the Hall seems more about his personality and his overbearing parents, than it does his on-ice ability. He clearly burned a few bridges during his career, but his worthy of getting in. He is 19th all-time in points-per-game at 1.138 with 865 points in 760 games.
For a three year span he was the best player in the game, 1994-1996 and if it wasn't for injuries he likely would have been in the top-30 scorers of all-time.
Which four would you vote in for 2013?