I've never made it a point to watch the HHOF's annual induction ceremonies. Speaking for all my fellow twenty-something diehards, we're really only now entering an era in which the careers of the players being honoured are truly relevant to us. Five years ago, for example, of course we recognized that Mark Messier and Al MacInnis were players that belonged in the Hall, but as our demographic goes, when those two were in their primes, we were really more preoccupied with, say... Devil Sticks. Or Tommy, the green Power Ranger.
So while it did take me a full week to actually sit down and YouTube it, this year's HOF ceremony was different – for obvious reasons. Last Monday, Pavel Bure (yes, he of triple deke fame) stood behind the mic in Toronto, capping off the latest flurry of debate regarding his merits as an NHL and Canucks legend. Before we delve into the Russian Rocket's slice of this year's HOF pie, however, how about the other three inductees?
Though he made a living terrorizing Canucks fans, Joe Sakic deserves special recognition around here, having been born and raised in Burnaby. In the same way that Griffiths Way pays homage to the Canucks' former owner, about ten kilometres east, people are similarily reminded of the former Nordique and Avalanche captain when they turn on Joe Sakic Way to access Bill Copeland Arena. Simply put, he's the greatest hockey player ever to have called Vancouver his childhood home.
Conversely, it's easy to dismiss Mats Sundin's induction in this city, considering his brief and uneventful tenure with the Canucks (if you remember, much was made in the media about the Swede receiving equal attention to Bure on the team's website when they were initially voted in several months back). But believe it or not, the guy deserves some credit from a Canucks point-of-view. Sundin left a team he captained for over a decade to play for us. His signing also arguably coincided with Ryan Kesler's breakout as an offensive threat. And that's a valuable legacy around these parts. If you're not buying it, you have to admit it was fun knowing Vigneault could have thrown out a line of Sedin, Sedin and Sundin at any moment, just to mess with Don Cherry.
As far as Adam Oates goes... much respect, but unlike the rest of his class, his career had little impact on the West Coast. Being the eldest of the 2012 quartet, his best years were played in the aforementioned Power-Rangers-before-hockey era of my generation.
And so we come to Mr. Bure. While the HOF commitee may have deemed him least-deserving of hockey's highest honour by way of his six-year wait (Sakic and Sundin were inducted in their first years of eligibility; Oates was in his fifth), Bure is undisputed as the most exciting, talented and skilled of the four. Call it the Most YouTube-Friendly Award.
To actually comment on his speech, Bure came across as a truly humbled individual. That may seem like a given considering the honour in question, but to a lot of people who have followed his career, his character hasn't always been portrayed as such. If you believe the reports that Bure declined an invitation to the Canucks' Ring of Honour, you may not consider him to be the most appreciative person.
With that in mind, it was refreshing to watch the ten minutes allotted to Bure last Monday, because it was exclusively a celebration of the guy's God-given talent. It wasn't a debate pitting him against the Canucks' former management. It was Pat Quinn comparing him with Bobby Orr in a class of the most skilled and exciting players ever. Sounds like hyperbole, but Quinn is not a man short on hockey cred. Sadly, Bure's on-ice reputation is too often overshadowed by his supposed character off of it.
|...Valeri Bure's answer to |
his brother's HOF ring.
Finally – given the early-ninetees flavour of this article, I would be woefully amiss if I didn't ask: Was that really Candace Cameron of DJ Tanner fame all grown up and back on television, sitting behind Bure's mom in the audience? (You can add Full House to the list of things that were more important than Mark Messier's career in my formative years.) I suppose that's the universe's way of evening things between Pavel and Valeri.
So here's to the Hall for finally getting it right and Quinn for speaking the truth. Here's to Pavel for hockey's highest honour and Valeri for his.