Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/2/13
His jersey will be lifted to the rafters Saturday, but Pavel Bure came home to the Vancouver Canucks last April when owner Francesco Aquilini raised a trial balloon at Rogers Arena. Had any doubts existed — and Aquilini had none — about the propriety of honouring a player who spent most of his seven years with the National Hockey League team yearning to leave, they were eradicated when Bure attended a Thursday-night Canuck game against the Edmonton Oilers. Invited to Vancouver by Aquilini, Bure was in the owner’s box as fans stood and roared when the Russian Rocket, a new inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, was shown on the scoreboard screen. “People gave him a five-minute standing ovation,” Aquilini marvelled this week. “It was unbelievable. It really solidified how the fans felt about Pavel and how he felt about the fans. Pavel was crying. It actually brought tears to his eyes. It was a very special moment for him. “This is really all about the fans. That’s why I did this. Pavel was tremendously popular. I know a lot of people who became fans because of Pavel. After we became owners, people would say to me: ‘What about Pavel? You’ve got to do something about Pavel.’ ” Aquilini did. He met with Bure before the Hall-of-Fame ceremony in Toronto last November, then championed the winger’s jersey-retirement candidacy within the Canuck organization. Mending the relationship between Bure and the Canucks, ending the estrangement of the most exciting player in franchise history, should become a significant piece of the Aquilini legacy in hockey. The owner, who admits he is a fan first, has returned one of the most popular players in franchise history to the Canuck family. “Until we win a Stanley Cup, I can’t really say I accomplished much as an owner,” Aquilini said. “But in terms of Pavel, this is a big deal to us. It’s happening because the fans really wanted it to happen. That’s why I stepped up and started having discussions with him. I knew the fans wanted it. “Pavel is going to be part of the Canuck family. I said this relationship had to be a two-way street, and he said ‘absolutely.’ That was the only way it could be. If it was any other way, it wouldn’t have happened. That was not a problem for him at all. He was honoured. He felt that it was time.” Thirteen years before his family bought a share of the Canucks and their arena, Aquilini was a season-ticket holder at the Pacific Coliseum when Bure played made his electrifying Canuck debut in 1991. Back then, new Canuck players often stayed at a hotel the Aquilinis owned near the Coliseum. Francesco was the manager and he got to know Pavel and his best friend on the Canucks, Gino Odjick, who was in his second NHL season when Bure arrived in the NHL.
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