FOR TWO games, the New York Rangers tamed the wind and held back
the tide. During Games 1 and 2 of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals, they
kept Vancouver Canuck right wing Pavel Bure in check.
Funny, though, you didn't hear any of the Rangers boasting about
it. Bure, a.k.a. the Russian Rocket, had scored 73 goals since the
start of the season, so the Rangers knew liftoff could not be
canceled, only delayed. The Rocket's inevitable ignition occurred 63
seconds into Game 3, when he zoomed in on a breakaway and tucked the
puck between the pads of Ranger goalie Mike Richter. Still, the
Canucks lost that game and the next one, too, to trail the Rangers
three games to one. But sparked by the electrifying play of Bure,
Vancouver rallied to force a seventh game in Madison Square Garden.
It was New York that finally secured the Stanley Cup, but the
finals provided the 24-year-old with a stage for displaying his
phenomenal skills. In 1993-94, Bure became only the seventh player in
NHL history to put together back-to-back 60-goal seasons, and his 16
playoff goals led the league.
A native of Moscow, Bure was handpicked by the Red Army hockey
club during his adolescence. In August 1991, after playing for the
Red Army for four years, he was told to sign a document that would
have bound him to the team for another three years. When he refused,
the team left for the Canada Cup tournament without him. A month
later, Bure was on a flight to Los Angeles, bound for Vancouver.
The Canucks had selected Bure in the sixth round of the 1989 draft
but had to purchase his rights from the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation.
It wasn't until Oct. 31, 1991, that he signed with Vancouver. For
the Canucks it was worth the wait: The first time Bure touched the
puck in a game, he took off on a rink- length rush that sucked the
breath from the 16,123 fans at Pacific Coliseum.
Vancouver fans were superstar virgins; they had never before had a
player of Bure's caliber, a player capable of scoring every time he
touched the puck. Two thousand of the Canuck faithful attended Bure's
first practice. He finished his rookie season with 34 goals in 65
games and was named the NHL's rookie of the year. When Hockey Night
in Canada's Don Cherry referred to Bure as a ''little weasel'' for
kicking the skates out from underneath an opponent, Vancouverites
rallied behind the Muscovite. An apology was demanded from Cherry.
For weeks, WEASEL POWER T-shirts sold briskly.
The rap on Bure had been that when it came to the postseason, he
was as erasable as a stat written in No. 2 pencil. In the 1993 and
'94 playoffs, opponents had assigned him a ''shadow,'' then watched
Bure disappear. Not so in 1994. Despite close attention from Mike
Sullivan of the Calgary Flames in the playoffs' first round, Bure
scored the series-winning goal in double overtime of Game 7. Against
the Dallas Stars in the next round, he scored six goals and one
technical knockout, blindsiding his shadow, Star enforcer Shane
Churla, in Game 2.
With his increasingly physical play, it's clear that hockey's most
dazzling offensive player is still a growing talent. And after his
potent display in last year's playoffs, you get the distinct feeling
that the Russian Rocket has not lit up his last Stanley Cup finals.
This is an article from the Feb. 9, 1995 issue