ALSO ON SLAM!
Thursday, November 4, 1999
'I don't feel guilty,' Bure says of bailing on Canucks
VANCOUVER -- He walked out on his team, demanding a trade, but Pavel Bure says he did nothing wrong.
"I think I did the right thing," Bure said Thursday on the eve of his first NHL game in Vancouver since forcing a trade from the Canucks to the Florida Panthers last January.
"I didn't betray anybody. I don't feel guilty."
Bure shrugged when asked if he was nervous about the reaction he might receive from the fans at tonight's game.
"I know it's going to be something, it's going to be booing or cheering," said the Russian Rocket, who signed a five-year, $48-million US contract after joining the Panthers.
"For me it's really important that people react. If they are silent in the stands, that would bother me."
Bure demanded to be traded in the summer of 1998. He backed up his ultimatum by refusing to play for the Canucks until he was dealt, a stance that ultimately cost him roughly $4 million US in salary. He was finally sent to the Panthers in a seven-player deal last Jan. 17.
On Thursday, Bure again refused to elaborate on why he wanted out of Vancouver.
"There's no reason to go back to a couple of years ago. What is done is done. It's behind us and we have to go on."
Bure denied wanting a trade was because he was uncomfortable with the fan attention he received in Vancouver.
"That's what you guys said but I never said that," he snapped.
"Sometimes there were articles about myself . . . they put words in my mouth which I never said. I keep reading that I didn't like the fans, the attention from the fans. I never said that."
Ironically, Bure returns to Vancouver eight years to the day he played his first game as a Canuck against the Winnipeg Jets. He remembers the game well.
"It was probably the best game I ever played in my life," said Bure, who scored 254 goals in his 428 games as a Canuck.
"I didn't score any goals but I felt so good. I was really nervous and couldn't sleep the night before."
During his seven years in Vancouver, Bure was the team's most exciting player and its most enigmatic. His boyish good looks, speed and goal-scoring ability made him a fan darling, but he was often withdrawn from his teammates.
He was the NHL's top rookie in 1991-92, then scored 60 goals in each of the next two seasons. It was Bure's overtime goal in Game 7 against Calgary that started the Canucks on the road to the 1994 Stanley Cup final, which they lost to the New York Rangers.
Even in his last season in Vancouver, when he was desperately unhappy, Bure still managed to score 51 goals and collect 39 assists.
The fleet winger has been sidelined several nights with a groin problem this year but still has scored six goals in eight games.
Bure admitted it was strange walking into GM Place as a visitor.
"I was walking down the hall and almost turned into the Canucks dressing room," he laughed.
He said he doesn't feel any extra incentive to beat the Canucks.
"It's always nice to win. I don't have any bad feelings about the Canucks. It's not my goal for me that I have to prove something."