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25 years ago today: The night Canucks hockey truly launched

Pavel Bure’s famous debut for the Canucks was 25 years ago today.

Yes, the night the Canucks face Auston Matthews for the first time is a monumental anniversary in Canucks lore. 

Bure was electric. He was nothing this town had ever seen before. He was a phenomenon. A generation of fans can tell you about him.

Bure didn’t score in that 2-2 tie at the Pacific Coliseum vs. the Winnipeg Jets, but we’ve never cared about that.

From the Nov. 6, 1991 edition of The Province, here’s Tony Gallagher:

Hip, hip, Bure.

What else could you say after last night’s 2-2 tie between Vancouver Canucks and the Winnipeg Jets at the Pacific Coliseum – the first NHL game for Pavel Bure.

While the point from the tie was nice for the Jets, the flashes of brilliance Bure showed the full house were the talk of the evening.

Although he isn’t a left winger, premier Mike Harcourt could well have named him minister for speed and stickhandling Tuesday as his rushes brought standing ovations and tumultuous cheers. And win or lose, the prospect of watching this fellow for the next 10 years would have to bring a smile even to the kisser of Don Cherry.

“I will remember everything about this night for the rest of my life,” said Bure through interpreter Serge Levin. “Thank you to everybody, the fans, my teammates and coaches. It was my fault I didn’t score.”

Though he didn’t get a point, he drew seven minutes in Jets penalties and was stopped three times while in cold by Winnipeg goalie Rick Tabaracci.

After mocking the Jets defence by splitting it once and walking around another seemingly lead-footed defender at the end of a long shift, he was royally introduced to the violence of the NHL. Doug Evans smacked him in the face with the stick and took a five-minute major and game misconduct, but the Canucks were unable to capitalize.

And it’s as well he was outstanding for as it turns out the original figures on his contract were low. His agent Ron Salcer confirmed the signing bonus was for $800,000 US, not $600,000 and fully $500,000 is paid this year. Further he has high bonuses for reasonable games played, milestones and goals scored.

“The package is well in excess of $3 million (over four years),” says Salcer.

He appeared to be worth every penny last night in entertainment value alone, to say nothing of the 2,500 seats he sold all by himself.

“I’ve played in Europe a lot and I could see he likes to come off the wall,” said Cliff Ronning, who along with Bure seemed to be trying to set a record for the league’s longest shift. “He’s got great speed and skill. He’s going to create a lot of room for others out there. He’s going to be good. He’s got too much talent not to.”

The Canucks opened the scoring when Geoff Courtnall hammered a power play point shot four minutes into the game.

Troy Murray tapped in a goalmouth rebound to even the score at one at 6:49 of the second period and then Luciano Borsato put Winnipeg up 2-1 with Robert Dirk in the penalty box.

Bure, who got to play on Ronning’s line because of a back injury to Jim Sandlak, had a chance to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead five minutes into the third period but the pass from Ronning hopped over his stick.

Dirk’s first goal of the season with just over six minutes remaining earned the Canucks the point.

“I had taken a stupid, retaliating penalty when they took the lead, so I had to do something,” said Dirk.

The Canucks head to L.A., where Bure will face Wayne Gretzky.

“He’s always been my favorite player in the NHL,” said Bure. “I have dreamed of playing against him.”



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