Bure and Gallagher
I don’t have all that much to say about the fact that Pavel Bure finally made the cut and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Clearly he belongs. I am happy for Bure because I’m sure he cares and he is easily my all time favourite player. Still, it doesn’t do anything to alter my opinion of the Hall of Fame. I don’t really care who is in and who is out because the institution has no credibility with me anyway. Bob Pulford is a Hall of Famer too. Nuff said.
Naturally, Tony Gallagher has a ridiculous piece on the Bure selection, a piece that reminds us that the ridiculous hockey media was the main reason Bure wanted out of Vancouver. He drags up the urban legend Gallagher helped create about Bure:
He was a considerably more gifted player, and the two didn’t really get along very well ever since a story came about during the 1994 playoffs that Bure had threatened to withdraw his services during the run to the Cup final unless his future contract demands were met.
Bure adamantly denies ever making that threat and what he’d really like to know is how the piece ever got legs.
Even if his agent at the time, Ron Salcer, had made such threats without his knowledge (which he says didn’t happen), how would those become public unless they had been leaked to somebody or some confidence had been broken by management or another player’s agent?
Bure has some strong suspicions as to how that story got going and sullied his reputation, so coming here to accept lesser status than Mr. Wonderful was not an option for him. And he may never come to Vancouver to honoured, although time heals all wounds and this will help.
This story was first reported by Al Strachan who mentioned it as a rumour an unnamed Russian player claimed he had heard. The rumour was promptly denied by Pat Quinn, George McPhee, Ron Salcer (Bure’s agent), Pavel Bure, and Canuck owner Arthur Griffiths. In fact, Griffiths insisted Bure’s extension had already been negotiated before the 1994 playoffs began. The parties agreed to delay the announcement and a signing ceremony until after the playoffs were done.
Don Cherry – he hated Bure because he is a Russian – added fuel to this fire on a Coach’s Corner when he repeated the rumour despite all the denials because “where there is smoke there is fire”. Quinn was so mad he went to the CBC and insisted on rebutting Cherry during the intermission following Cherry’s broadcast. He did so in no uncertain terms.
None of this stopped Tony Gallagher from repeating the rumour dozens of times over the following few years. Even though no one who was actually involved in Bure’s contract did anything but deny the story and despite the fact that there was never any evidence and no one ever claimed to actually have a source, Gallagher actually called the story “well documented”.
When Bure was finally traded, he kept his promise to reveal the reason he wanted out of Vancouver in a very strange way. (I suspect Mike Gillis – then Bure’s agent – orchestrated it.) He gave an exclusive interview to Al Strachan and Tony Gallagher in New York. The two reporters who did more than anyone to invent this story out of whole cloth flew to New York and met with Bure.
Bure told them that the story hurt him personally and damaged his reputation. He told them he had no idea where the story came from or why it kept showing up in the media. He hoped that by leaving Vancouver the ridiculous – and untrue – stories about him would stop. He hoped that in Florida he would be defined by his play and not by the media nonsense. (In this respect he was right.)
Gallagher was forced to write a story laying all this out while wondering which nefarious Canuck manager was spreading all these nasty things about Pavel and his contract. This was pretty funny to anyone who had followed the entire story closely. If Tony Gallagher did not know who was behind the story, who would? Who were Gallagher’s sources? He did not have any. He never did. The entire story was bullshit. Al Strachan bullshit. Tony Gallagher bullshit.
I don’t think people who did not live through it can understand the media circus that surrounded Bure in Vancouver. Stories linking his name to Russian mafia murders? Check. Stories about his popularity in the gay community and whispers about his sexual orientation? Check. Linden and Bure were feuding? Check. Anything to put Bure on the front page and sell papers? Check.
I was very sorry to see Pavel leave, but I did not blame him. I would have wanted to get out of Vancouver and go where I was appreciated too.
Postscript: Bure was very badly treated by the hockey media in Vancouver and that affected his reputation league wide, but not among Vancouver hockey fans. We loved and appreciated him, even if the media did not.
Postscript II: There was a problem with Bure’s big contract in Vancouver although not the one described by Gallagher. Bure believed his $5 MM a year contract was supposed to be tax free like the contracts for hockey players in Russia. When he found out it did not work that way in North America, he claimed the Canucks (or his agent) misled him. When the Canucks didn’t budge, Bure fired Salcer and hired Gillis.
Postscript III: In his story today, Gallagher drops this line at the end: “Similarly, what if the team had kept Igor Larionov, as any normal team would have done?” Gallagher knows the Canucks had no choice with Larionov. I’d explain but it would take another 1,000 words and I need a shower to wash off the Gallagher.