- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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TORONTO -- Long overdue. And then some.
The "Russian Rocket" is finally in, and it's about time.
A five-time 50-goal scorer, the most electrifying winger of his era, Pavel Bure is finally Hockey Hall of Fame-bound after Tuesday's vote from the selection committee.
That's a committee, by the way, that has seen some roster change since Bure's first few years of being passed over. Igor Larionov, Peter Stastny and Anders Hedberg have been added to the selection committee over the past few years, and perhaps that's what was needed to correct a wrong with Bure.
"If you look back at his career, he was a very consistent scorer, an electrifying player; he made highlights every time he stepped on the ice," Larionov, a Hockey Hall of Famer, told ESPN.com after the announcement of the inductees on Tuesday. "He's one of those players whose style represented what Russian hockey was all about. He played a game that was fun to play."
Bure, twice a 60-goal scorer, demanded your attention. His ability to break through tight checking and embarrass goaltenders was sensational. His dazzling dekes and puckhandling ability were mouth-dropping. He left you wanting even more.
"He was unbelievable in the way he played," Larionov said. "He brought fans out of their seats."
Justice was served as well to Adam Oates, who, like Bure, was long overlooked despite numbers that screamed Hockey Hall of Fame, including ranking sixth all time in assists (1,063).
"So well-deserved," Brett Hull told ESPN.com Tuesday.
Hull and Oates, the famed St. Louis Blues duo, found incredible chemistry together on a line from 1989-92, Oates tallying 79 assists in his first season in St. Louis and 90 assists the following season. The playmaker and the sniper were unstoppable.
"It was special," Hull said. "We had a relationship on and off the ice, which made it all the more fun to play together. We had a connection from the moment he got to St. Louis. His ability to make that pass to me was just as important as my ability to put the puck in the net. Obviously, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, I'll never put anyone ahead of them, but I'll say Adam was just as intelligent on the ice. He was born with this knowledge for the game. He could do it all."
Speaking of doing it all, Joe Sakic, of course, was the no-brainer of Tuesday's class. As I wrote Monday, he's hockey royalty and for my money was the best player in the world for a few years early in the 2000s while leading Canada to 2002 Olympic gold in Salt Lake City (where I felt he was the best player in the tournament) and the Avalanche to a second Stanley Cup in 2001.
Mats Sundin completed the deserving foursome Tuesday, much to the delight of Toronto Maple Leafs fans everywhere. Make no mistake, I believe Sundin is definitely HHOF material. But that he got in before Brendan Shanahan, whom I viewed as a shoo-in, well, that was certainly stunning to me.
Shanahan's 656 goals and the fact he was the pre-eminent power forward of his era and his three Stanley Cup rings spelled out automatic Hockey Hall of Famer in my books.
Again, I believe Sundin is whole-heartedly a Hall of Famer. I just thought he would be made to wait a year or two.
I must also express disappointment that neither Fred Shero nor Pat Burns got the nod in the builders' category. I don't understand how you can't get 14 of 18 votes on the committee for either of those great coaches.
Similarly, this is two years in a row that we haven't seen a woman elected. I thought the point of expanding the players' category to allow up to two women a year (at no expense to the four male players allowed every year) was to celebrate the great former women's players we've had. Geraldine Heaney, anyone?
Still, the day carried more positive news than not. The Russian Rocket is finally in.
2mPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald