Friday, July 13, 2012

The Rushin' Rocket and Geoff Courtnall's HOF foul

The Province ran an article today, blasting Mikael Samuelsson for a recent Swedish interview disparaging Alex Burrows and his finger-biting antics in the 2011 SCF.  Good for Botch.  But he and his paper missed another interview foul in their own backyard when they reached former Canuck Geoff Courtnall for comment regarding Pavel Bure's HHOF induction just over two weeks ago.  Read on for the article they should've printed.

My apologies to Pavel Bure.  For a blog sullying his good name by association, BTD has been woefully silent on last month's Hockey Hall of Fame induction.  Somewhere out there, sitting on millions of rubles and memories of Anna Kournikova, I know the Russian Rocket's been waiting for my two kopecks on the matter...

By now you've surely read the dozens upon dozens of articles covering the drama of Bure's overdue selection into the Hall.  If not, don't with anything in the media, they're all echoes of the same stories we've been hearing since his departure 13 years ago:

*Most electrifying Canucks player ever, yes.
*Most electrifying player of his time, (arguably) yes.
*Vancouver needs to retire his number, of course.
*The Canucks organization hated (and still hates) Bure, naturally.

The last one is questionable, but that debate is a can of worms worthy of putting the current Luongo-Schneider drama to shame.  (You can read the Sparknotes version of Bure vs. the Canucks in this Province article.)   At any rate, those four statements essentially form the skeleton for 99% of the media's coverage on Bure's pending induction.  That's why one particular article stood out last month in the wave of coverage following the announcement.

In an interview with The Province, former Canucks teammate Geoff Courtnall provided some bold insight into Bure's previous non-selections.  Word for word, Courtnall blamed the Hall for "prejudice towards Russian players in the NHL."  While it's not an original perspective (here's to you, Don Cherry), nor one of much consequence to Courtnall (I doubt he has any illusions of receiving a call himself from the HOF), it's interesting nonetheless. 

Here's why.  In addition to Russians, you can presumably extend this prejudice that some feel exists in the NHL towards Europeans, in general.  For all the hype Bure's HOF snubs have garnered over the last half decade, it's kind of poetic that in the year he does get the call, another glaring pass has been made towards Brendan Shanahan, a Canadian.  In addition to Bure, Shanahan was overlooked in favour of Swedish centre Mats Sundin (perhaps the Hall isn't so much anti-Russian as it is pro-Toronto).  It's hard to imagine such a prejudice as Courtnall has suggested exists when a Russian and a Swede get voted in for the Hall ahead of a Canadian with 600 goals.  The retired power forward and current league disciplinarian now enjoys the distinction of being the most prolific point-scorer in NHL history not in the Hall of Fame (among those who are eligible¹).

Besides Shanahan, another Canadian remains waiting in the wings in Eric Lindros.  The latter is arguably much less of a snub than Shanahan, but the former Flyer's injury-shortened career is almost a carbon copy of Bure's.  Along with Bure, pre-concussion Lindros had few peers to match his skill and dominance in the 90's.  Their stats are near-identical.  779 points in 702 games for Bure; 865 in 760 for Lindros.  Both starred in their teams one-off playoff runs – Bure in 1994 and Lindros three years later.  And while the Rocket garnered a few more individual awards by comparison (a Calder and two Maurice Richards), Lindros's Hart holds considerably more NHL cred.  Even off the ice, Lindros' departure from Philadelphia had all the controversy Bure's did in Vancouver.

So.  Geoff Courtnall.  While you gotta admire him coming to Bure's defence, his claim appears to be unfounded.  For what it's worth, his accusation does provide an effective starting point to analyze the Hall's incosistencies.  At any rate, Vancouver can finally put the issue to rest.

Regarding his play on the ice, the NHL was exceedingly lucky to have seen as supremely talented and entertaining a player as Bure was.  This city, all the more so to have had him on our side.  I can appreciate the reasons why he wasn't chosen in his first six years of eligibility – first and foremost, for lack of longevity – but byegones will be as such.   Starting now, we can officially appreciate Bure's place among the league's very best of all-time.  Meanwhile, Detroit and Philadelphia can continue the same weeping and wailing we've endured for our former superstar.  (Only difference is, Geoff Courtnall, theirs are Canadian.)


¹ Ahead of Shanahan are Jagr and Selanne, who are still active, as well as Recchi and Modano, for whom the three-year waiting period has not yet passed.  Next on the list is Pierre Turgeon.

*See the discussion regarding this article on the forums here.

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