As Pavel Bure's jersey retirement approaches, I think the majority of fans will reflect on his on-ice accomplishments. He was certainly one of the most exciting players to watch on the ice, and this definitely made him one of the most marketable players in the league. Off ice, however, one of his most overlooked achievements was the extent to which he generated overall enthusiasm around the league and became one of the most appreciated players of the early 1990s. Pavel brought excitement as people of all ages flocked to see him; in Vancouver, he was the most recognizable person in town. In other NHL markets, he created an aura of excitement whenever he visited. He was on the verge of becoming a celebrity across the league, and the NHL recognized this. While these days he is appreciated for his contributions on the ice, many seem to forget the extent of Pavel's popularity at the time and the plans the NHL had made to market him as their next poster-boy: Paul Hunter's article, written from a Torontonian perspective, provides a very captivating look at Pavel's appeal and how it transcended boundaries. He was not only popular amongst hockey fans but even non-hockey fans: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1004629/1/index.htm Unfortunately, one of Pavel's greatest curses was simply playing for the Canucks instead of another team; as Perman mentions, had he played for the Kings or Rangers he would have had automatic success from a league-wide marketing standpoint. Instead, few fans outside of Vancouver ever had a chance to watch him, perhaps lending to the reasons for so many misconceptions about his early game and the extra work needed to market Pavel. Had he been in a larger market, his on-ice feats would have done all of the work necessary. Being in Vancouver certainly obscured Pavel to some and to this day complicates many fans' understanding of his early game: Stephen Brunt articulates the sheer pleasure of having the opportunity to watch Bure; through this lens, we can understand that the hockey world rarely saw Pavel, but when they did they were in awe: Especially considering the Canucks were a very defensive team, Bure was the sole attraction for many fans when they had an opportunity to watch his team: In fact, without Bure, the team really was not that good: In regards to his importance, Pavel was considered by many to be a top candidate for the 1993 Hart Trophy. I've already posted Bob McKenzie's thoughts in another post in which Pavel is named a top candidate. This certainly added to his popularity at the time: Perhaps the reason for so many misconceptions about Pavel's early game stem from the lack of opportunities for fans from other markets to watch him. There are many, many articles available from the period to establish that he was crucial to his team both offensively and defensively. I elaborate on that point in more detail here: http://hfboards.mandatory.com/showpost.php?p=73202947&postcount=72 Despite these few chances to watch Bure, though, he was a very popular player around the league; as noted earlier, he was a favorite in the 1993 NHL All-Star fan balloting. Bure's popularity across the league in the early 1990s was astounding. He looked to be one of the next faces of the league if not for three factors: 1) his injuries, beginning in 1995, which had a substantial effect on his performance the following few seasons and ultimately ended his career; 2) his relationship with the team, which at times caused him to be looked upon as a villain; 3) his own humility and unwillingness to be viewed as a superstar. The third point is articulated here: Pavel had an incredible amount of marketing potential with his style of play, excitement factor, and especially his appearance. He had an appeal that extended beyond the interests of the diehard hockey fan. In Vancouver, he was already the most popular person in the city -- a true celebrity -- and he was the primary reason for the exponential growth of hockey's popularity here. He was a rock star in Vancouver and was always the talk of the town even amongst non-hockey fans. The league was ready to introduce him to the entire hockey world. If not for his injury in 1995 and his poor relationship with management, he might very well have been pushed to become the next face of the NHL. Upon returning from his first major, he was injured again for the entire 1996-97 season, then he held out for half of the 1998-99 season. Once he was traded, he was buried in Florida and never reached that level of star power again despite his personal on-ice success. Bure seemed on his way towards becoming the league's next poster-boy and had all of that taken away from him very quickly. The NHL had already begun plans to market him aggressively to the hockey world, but his injuries, quarrels with upper Canucks management, and consequent reluctance to take part in their marketing plans threw all of that off course. Perhaps Pavel was unfortunate to have been drafted by Vancouver. While next week we celebrate his number retirement at Rogers Arena, we also may reflect on how much greater his career could have been both in his on-ice accomplishments and his off-ice recognition. He was at a point in the early 1990s when he very well could have become the next face of the league if not for injuries and personal decisions.