How Pavel Bure Almost Became the Next Face of the NHL as of 1995.

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by JA, Oct 27, 2013.

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  1. JA

    JA Guest

    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.

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    Last edited by moderator : Oct 27, 2013
  2. TheDevilMadeMe

    TheDevilMadeMe Registered User

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    First off, I always enjoy your research, even if I often disagree with your conclusions.

    Now a couple of disagreements:

    Regardless of his other qualities as a player, I can't see any way a Russian would have become "the face of the NHL" as early as 1995. I mean, Fedorov kind of was for a couple of years, I guess.

    As for your contention that Bure was considered a candidate for the Hart Trophy in 1993 by "many," why didn't he receive a single vote, not even a third place one?
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
  3. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    Bure and Fedorov were never the face of the NHL... Forsberg almost became one, Jagr and Hasek arguably were... Sundin got more press than any Euro ever (the benefits of playing in T.O.).

    Ovechkin is the first real, European face of the league imo, despite his rivalry with Sid the Kid.

    The Habs, then Gretzky, then Lemieux overshadowed the first three decades of hockey I've watched. OV led a new generation.

    I loved Bure as a lifelong Canucks fan myself. But he never made that step from franchise star to league's best. His shift to Miami didn't help, nor did his cherrypicking defensive-lackin' circling the neutral zone for breakaway passes style of play. He never warranted the 'C'. He was a me-first, super-talented highlight reel performer alright. But if you wanted to win the cup, you should give him a pass. Players like Nieuwendyk, Dale Hunter and Claude Lemieux, not to mention Sakic and Yzerman, defined the generation more than Bure.

    Flashy breakaways were good for news clips but there's more to the game of hockey than two or three shifts a game. He is a marginal HHOFer when you consider the generation he is a part of. This takes nothing away from his ability to accelerate and puckhandle one on one. He would have thrived in the shootout era.
     
  4. TheDevilMadeMe

    TheDevilMadeMe Registered User

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    And even when Ovechkin was clearly a step up from Crosby (2007-08 to 2009-10), I don't think he ever really was "the face" of the NHL in a way Crosby is today. Tough to be the face of a North American league as a Russian.
     
  5. monster_bertuzzi

    monster_bertuzzi registered user

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    Thats just shameful. The Bure you're describing was the Florida/New York Pavel, in his heyday in Vancouver the guy was a flat out force.
     
  6. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    Hard to be the face of the NHL in 1995 when Lemieux and Gretzky are still there. Lemieux especially was still the premier player in the NHL. Lindros was always the name being bounced around as a guy the media was pushing to be the "next one" in the NHL. And I can't imagine Jagr taking a backseat to even a healthy Bure. Although, Bure was a dazzling treat to watch, and in 1994 he was probably the most exciting player to watch. People have a lot of sentiment for that 1994 Canucks team. Perhaps with him staying in a hockey city like Vancouver it may have helped though.
     
  7. Killion

    Killion Registered User

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    The first real "face" of European NHL hockey players to me at least would be Borje' Salming followed by Statsny; Hedberg & Nilsson of the WHA though none were transcendent in being "the face of the league". As mentioned up-page their all at a bit of a disadvantage in comparison to their North American counter-parts from an associative marketing perspective as imports. Interesting phenomena to some degree as alternatively if you consider a guy like Carl Brewer who the Finn's just loved, deified to some extent and he was only over their briefly really seems to me we here in Canada & the States are shortchanging these players just a tad no? Pavel Bure' at his peak was unquestionably one of if not the most electric player in the league. I think variously Jagr & Hasek and Selanne at various times could claim that title though in each case fleeting. Ovi's hindered somewhat playing in the market that he does. Had he begun with one of the 06'rs or Philly, LA perhaps, or had Washington been a lot more successful as a team I suspect his "brand" or shadow if you will would cast a far bigger shadow.
     
  8. seventieslord

    seventieslord Student Of The Game

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    You mean until 08-09, right?
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
  9. Czech Your Math

    Czech Your Math Registered User

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    Bure was one of the faces of the league for a while, although there was a lot of competition: Lemieux, Lindros, Gretzky, Roy, Messier, Yzerman, Kariya... Jagr, Hasek, Selanne, Fedorov, Forsberg, etc.

    There were plenty of electrifying players, but starting in the mid-90s the clutch, grab, trap and XL goalies took hold. Brilliant marketing to let players tackle other players, slowing down the game and increasing injuries to star players.
     
  10. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    two memories from the early 90s:

    1. there was a mainstream hockey mag from around '93 or '94 with the headline "the next one?" it listed fedorov, mogilny, bure, selanne, and jagr, then totally dismissed them because of the language barrier. said selanne was the only one with a shot because he came from the most westernized country (hence his sunny disposition-- five years after the cold war, people were still saying things like that) and spoke the best english. then lindros, of course. this must have been before kariya was in the league because he wasn't mentioned. but it ended with roenick, the only true saviour of the league if it had wanted to pay off in the sunbelt/expansion way that bettman had intended. a new breed of brash, outspoken, american hockey player, the article said, and if the league was smart this would be the guy they'd build their campaigns around.

    2. i can tell you that in vancouver, bure was elvis. like, girls crying at the sight of him, crowds at the airport waiting for him after every road trip, people leaving things at the gates of his mansion. i've never seen anything like it. michael jordan was obviously the bigger national and global brand, but just in terms of what a guy meant to one city and everyone who lived in it, hockey fan or not, i'd put this on a legitimate rock star/matinee idol level. combine that with him being vancouver's first superstar, and the then-relatively small scale of the city (compared to chicago, toronto, ny, etc.) and the fact that hockey was, is, and always will be king, and yeah i get why that 22 year old kid never felt comfortable there.
     
  11. TheDevilMadeMe

    TheDevilMadeMe Registered User

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    no. Ovechkin's suspensions in 2009-10 were the only reason he didn't win his third straight Hart to go along with third straight Pearson/Lindsay.

    Crosby with his developing all-round game may have been at a similar level (and IMO deserved the Hart Trophy with the way things actually played out), but at that point, I would have said Ovechkin was the league's best player, based on his performance over the past three seasons.
     
  12. ehhedler

    ehhedler Registered User

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    I think he meant somewhere halfway through the season when Bure held a Mogilny|Selänne pace.
     
  13. seventieslord

    seventieslord Student Of The Game

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    You said "clearly a step up" though. I don't think that was any longer the case. Beginning in the 09 playoffs, actually.
     
  14. Boxscore

    Boxscore #OldNHL

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    The ONLY Euro who was ever the "face of the NHL" is Alex Ovechkin. He and Crosby own the post-lockout (new NHL) era. He is the only Euro hockey player who is/was recognizable by mainstream (non-hockey fan) North America.

    In the mid-90s, Gretzky, Lemieux, Lindros, Messier, etc. were the faces of the NHL. Hasek, Fedorov, Bure, even Jagr were recognized widely by hockey fans but were never mass-marketed to the general public in non-traditional hockey markets the way Ovechkin is today.
     
  15. Killion

    Killion Registered User

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    ^^^ Ya I dont know about that Gustafsson. Fact is, there really isnt any star currently playing in the NHL that transcends the sport and is capable of carrying his own brand, the NHL's & the game itself beyond fans & casual fans as being particularly recognizable beyond the sport. Crosby is currently tops & receives app $4M in endorsements per annum, Ovi $2M and Malkin in 3rd spot at just $400,000. None of them even make the Forbes Top 100 in Athlete Endorsements. Theres actually a thread on the BOH Board discussing this, comments made recently by Bruce McNall pursuant to the growth of the game (or lack thereof in the southern US) that "Crosby could walk into the lobby of a major hotel in LA and no one would recognize him" (words to that affect). Really, not since Gretzky has any player transcended the sport to the degree your suggesting and that includes both Crosby & Ovechkin. I expect we'll see his face a lot more leading up to & during the Sochi Olympics as were now seeing spots with Crosby in tv and on web based creative but still....
     
  16. Boxscore

    Boxscore #OldNHL

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    I agree with you overall.... because no player today is as GREAT as Wayne or Mario.... but the NHL has become more mainstream due to TV, NHLNetwork, Twitter, YouTube and the interwebs.... vehicles, players in the 90s didn't have at their disposal.
     
  17. JA

    JA Guest

    Between October 2009 and February 2010, Ovechkin scored 89 points in 54 games. That's on par with some of his previous seasons, I'd say.
    The first article I quoted, I think, makes clear just how intrigued the league was in the prospect of marketing Pavel Bure. I'll quote that excerpt here:
    http://hfboards.mandatory.com/showpost.php?p=73317305&postcount=1
    [​IMG]

    Pavel didn't just have the on-ice appeal, but also the features of a teen idol. He drew crowds from a wider demographic than most hockey players ever could. The league wanted to capitalize not only on his incredible on-ice abilities but also on his image. Especially prior to his first injury, Pavel was a hot commodity. If not for the injuries and his own lack of certainty about being a public marketing tool, the league may very well have placed him on ads, billboards, and in major marketing campaigns.

    Here's an excerpt from an article from January 1993:
    A month prior to that, Sports Illustrated featured Pavel. I've quoted part of that Sports Illustrated article in the OP. Below is a brief commentary on that article:
    Thanks for the kind words, TDMM. I'm happy to share my thoughts, and I always appreciate the discussion.

    I think the glaring statements that suggest the league's intentions to market Bure are the ones in reference to J. Michael Bloom, Bettman, Nike, Coca-Cola, and General Motors. The NHL head office seemed very serious about promoting Pavel as the league's next poster-boy, and many of these plans were discussed just prior to his first injury. The injury without a doubt halted those plans as Pavel was gone for the full 1995-96 season beginning in late 1995. All of the momentum that had been built prior to that was suddenly interrupted.

    Pavel's appeal reached a wide demographic as mentioned. He appealed to hockey fans for his flashy and impressive play, but he was also a major teenage heartthrob and certainly a sex symbol. He had a mysterious aura about him, and had several qualities that few other hockey players had both in his appearance and personality, something alluded to in the other articles as well: some, such as Marc Perman, called him the James Dean of hockey; others compare him to Elvis for the powerful effects he had on the city of Vancouver and the rest of Canada. I think it's clear why the hockey world saw him as the league's next major promotional figure if not for the setbacks that eventually derailed these plans.

    [​IMG]

    In a 1993 article about Teemu Selanne, Mike Beamish outlines the differences in the cultural effects of Selanne and Bure:
    As for Pavel's place as a Hart candidate in 1993, he was on pace for an incredible sophomore year on an otherwise offensively-lackluster team. We can look at his 1992-93 splits to see what went wrong -- an unusual cold streak between February and April 1993 in which he only scored at a point-per-game pace, dropping from a 122-point and 70-goal pace between October and January. While in other seasons he usually finished quite strong, this season he inexplicably slowed down. Certainly before March, however, the majority of analysts viewed Pavel as a favorite to win the Hart. Here are the NHL coaches' opinions from February 1993:
    In discussions with NHL general managers about who the first ever European Hart Trophy winner would be, many pointed towards Bure:
    Bure's value was extremely high in the early 1990s and certainly prior to his 1995 injury; leading up to the 1992 NHL Awards (in which Pavel won the Calder Trophy), Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher stated that if his team had possession of Bure he would not relinquish his rights even for Eric Lindros:
    Even amongst the Eastern media who hardly had an opportunity to watch Pavel, he was a near-unanimous choice to win the Calder Trophy.
    Canucks coach Pat Quinn also acknowledged how happy he was with Pavel's play, another indication of Bure's integration into Quinn's strong defensive system. My post in the OP links to more evidence of Pavel's strong two-way play in the early 1990s:
    When Wayne Gretzky was asked who his choices for the Hart Trophy would be in February 1993, Bure was one of his answers. This article also references the transition away from the old faces of the NHL to the new faces. Wayne Gretzky was without a doubt fading as the face of the league at that time:
    When NHL general managers were asked who the three best players in the league were, Bure's name appeared multiple times:
    We can see what went wrong at the end of the 1992-93 season for Pavel through these two articles:

    It's strange that this article was written in November 1992, in the midst of Pavel's early Hart Trophy-worthy play that year. He had tremendous pressure on him, and perhaps was unfairly judged when he slowed down to a point-per-game pace at the end of the season. The Canucks media were relentless and unfair most of the time as we'll see a bit later in this post.
    Here's a particularly vicious article written only months after Pavel was a Conn Smythe candidate in the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs and just prior to the shortened 1994-95 playoffs. This is the kind of trash Pavel sometimes had to deal with, and as his relationship with the team worsened, the media worked hard to paint him as the villain. In this article, Jim Taylor publicly calls for fans to be angry at Pavel for negotiating with the Canucks on recently well-documented, manipulative tactics by the team to cheat Pavel out of his proper earnings:
    This article discusses Pavel's slump at the end of the 1992-93 season and particularly recognizes the lack of appropriate linemates to play with him:

    This article describes the problem with the Canucks -- a lack of offensive depth. When Pavel slumped, the whole team slumped. When Pavel was ejected from Game 3 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals for his high-stick on Jay Wells, the team's flaws were exposed:
    Pavel was especially important for his team, and when he slowed down at the end of the 1992-93 season, it very noticeably affected the team, exposing their many deficiencies. He was a definite Hart Trophy favorite by the midpoint of that season, but the particularly harsh and critical Vancouver media, as well as the weaknesses of the team, made apparent just how fragile the Canucks were when Pavel was not playing at the pace everyone expected him to; a point-per-game pace simply was not satisfactory for a player of his stature. He had a slow end to the 1992-93 season, thus taking him out of the race that year in the final two months of the season.

    The Canucks were 35-19-8 at the start of March 1993. They went 8-9-0 in March; Pavel scored 6 goals, 6 assists, 12 points in 14 games that month. That just shows how important he was to the team, and when he wasn't constantly playing at an unreasonably high level without any helpful llinemates the team suffered. That ultimately took him out of the race, though the Canucks finished the year 46-29-9, sixth in the entire league in points.

    Regardless of the possible snub at the end of the 1992-93 season, Pavel's stock continued to rise, and in 1993-94 he did in fact receive a number of Hart Trophy votes.
    His exposure to the entire hockey world in the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs continued to heighten his potential as the league's next major representative. Certainly, prior to his injuries and despite the unfair criticisms of the media towards him at times, Pavel was a cultural sensation throughout the hockey world and in most of the major markets amongst non-hockey fans as well, even bleeding into the rest of the sports universe through such outlets as Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated. Eastern fans likely never had an opportunity to watch his games at the time, but the other facets of his presence in the league took effect with authority.

     
    Last edited by moderator : Oct 27, 2013
  18. JA

    JA Guest

    As his retirement ceremony is mere hours away, I'll contribute a bit more with a few photographs, courtesy of Canucks.com:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    http://canucks.nhl.com/club/gallery.htm?id=39484
    [​IMG]
     
  19. Stephen

    Stephen Registered User

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    Bure was a force in a time when there were a lot of other demigods circulating around the league below Gretzky and Lemieux. Bure had some ridiculous offensive seasons but guys like Fedorov, Selanne, Mogilny, Yzerman, Lafontaine, Oates, Hull, Neely, Sakic, Jagr, Gilmour, Lindros etc. were also in the midst of their best season.s between 1992 and 1995. If the Canucks had won that 94 cup maybe things would have been different.
     
  20. JA

    JA Guest

    I've been meaning to continue my video scouting series with Pavel, though I haven't had much of an opportunity to work on that. I'd ideally like to start analyzing other players as well once I obtain enough footage.

    Early Pavel was excellent at both ends of the ice. I've been seeing some people identify him lately as a "north south" player, which is as far from the truth as one could possibly be. That's just another indicator that the average hockey fan has predicated their opinions of him on a false reputation. In fact, Ray Ferraro was interviewed about Pavel on the TEAM 1040 today, and he was blunt about the fact as a player on Long Island he actually had little exposure to Pavel the Canuck. The most Ferraro knew about Pavel was that he was a dangerous scorer, and one of the articles above states that most of what New Yorkers saw of Pavel was contained within the late-night goal highlights. While everything can be analyzed to the greatest extent these days, many people missed the details of early Pavel's game the first time around. Early Pavel was a fairly complete player and there are countless games and articles to remind us of that.

    As we've already seen, he excelled at roving around the ice; the closest comparable in today's game to that type of positional game, in my opinion, would be Patrick Kane's, though Kane lacks Pavel's overall skating ability and particularly his speed. He was also a very good back checker, possessed a strong creative mind, and had a tremendous hockey IQ; he was an underrated playmaker, playing alongside such teammates as Anatoli Semenov, Murray Craven, Greg Adams, Gino Odjick, Alexander Semak, etc. A lot of his one-touch passes, tip passes, and displays of his playmaking abilities have been forgotten, and the tenacity, creativity, and vision he displayed on the ice show he would have worked well with better linemates. I am actually quite frustrated at the hockey media for showing the same goal highlights over and over again -- Pavel was much more than that. Those who revisit Canucks games featuring Pavel will be pleasantly surprised at what they find. Late Pavel -- New York Pavel -- was also a two-way player, as articles and testimonial evidence from that period will show. My next work's focus will be on Pavel prior to his first major injury.

    I'll hopefully have something soon for us to analyze.
     
    Last edited by moderator : Nov 2, 2013
  21. Stephen

    Stephen Registered User

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    Phil Kessel and his use of the neutral zone to generate speed reminds me a lot of what Bure used to do.
     
  22. DisgruntledGoat*

    DisgruntledGoat* Registered User

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    No amount of these silly threads will ever convince me that Bure was a two-way player.

    I watched him. I know what he was.
     
  23. JA

    JA Guest

    That's a very narrow-minded opinion, ignoring a lot of the evidence we've looked at. Articles, testimonial evidence, footage, and analysis all clearly distinguish details about the player that you seem determined to ignore. Few games were televised in the early 1990s, and most of the hockey world did not watch him play simply because of the limitations of that period.

    What many remember are the Florida days; the deterioration of memory seems to have blended that with the rest of his career and brutalized the description of his game to the point of being completely inaccurate. He played a different game in Florida than in New York and Vancouver. We've established that already. Not a lot of people actually recall specifically the type of game he played under Pat Quinn's defensive system, nor can they describe it to to fullest extent. I've even seen someone recently call him a "north south player," which is as far from the truth as can possibly be. What we're doing here is uncovering the details of his game from that period.

    Memory becomes distorted. If you watch those games again, you may see something you've forgotten or that you missed the first time.
     
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  24. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    i'm pretty sure the point of all these threads is to establish that bure wasn't a defensive liability, at least pre-'95 injury in vancouver.
     
  25. TheDevilMadeMe

    TheDevilMadeMe Registered User

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    Unfortunately, I think you're wrong. I've seen JetsAlternate claim that Bure was "an excellent two-way player," and "an above average defensive player."
     

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