A Bit of "Homework" By The Vancouver Canucks Netted Them The "Russian Rocket"

Published on May 13th, 2023 1:33 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

Pavel Bure, the legendary Vancouver Canucks player, entered the NHL Draft in unusual fashion. It was the 1989 NHL Draft, and the Vancouver Canucks were making their sixth round pick.

With the 113th overall pick in the 1989 NHL Draft, the Vancouver Canucks selected Pavel Bure, who would go on to become one of the best goal scorers of all time.

Other teams were outraged, as they thought that Pavel Bure was ineligible to be taken past the third round of the draft.

Formal complaints were lodged with the NHL, and there was real worry that Bure would be taken away from the Vancouver organization.

Nearly a year later, the NHL made their ruling - the "Russian Rocket" would be going to Vancouver.

Here is the crazy story of how Pavel Bure ended up in Vancouver.


In 1989, all of the teams in the NHL knew that Pavel Bure was a potential superstar.

The problem? They were worried that he would be hesitant to leave the Soviet Union.

Bure, who was 18 years old in 1989, was eligible to be taken in the FIRST THREE rounds of the draft.

In order to be selected past the third round, Bure would be required to play two seasons, with a minimum of 11 games per year, for his club in the Soviet Union, the Central Red Army.

So, teams were stuck - how could they "blow" a top pick on a player that might not leave the Soviet Union?

For that reason, Bure wasn't taken until the 6th round of the 1989 NHL Draft.

When the Canucks took Bure, other teams were outraged - wasn't he ineligible, due to not playing enough games with the Central Red Army team?

Not so fast - the Canucks had done some extra homework.

The Canucks had game sheets proving that Bure had played the requisite minimum number of games to make himself eligible to be selected in the later rounds of the 1989 Draft. This included international and exhibition games.

Other teams, reportedly including the Edmonton Oilers, also had access to this information, and the Canucks snatched Bure in the 6th round after hearing that the Oilers also wanted to draft him in the sixth round.

A number of teams were outraged and lodged formal complaints.


There were many things that had to be settled before Bure could play with the Canucks.

The NHL had to be convinced that he was eligible. With the help of Igor Larionov, the Canucks were able to produce enough evidence to the NHL that showed that Bure had played in enough Central Red Army games to qualify to be drafted in the 6th round.

Once this was accomplished, Bure had to defect from the Soviet Union, which he did in September of 1991.

After that, the Canucks and Bure had to negotiate a cash settlement with his former team in the Soviet Union. The final cost ended up being $250,000.

After that, Bure and the Canucks had to negotiate a contract. In the end, Bure received a four year, $2.7 million contract with an $800,000 signing bonus.


In the late 1970s, the Edmonton Oilers did a bit of extra homework to determine that Jari Kurri was eligible to play in the NHL immediately.

Roughly a decade later, the Canucks did a bit of extra legwork and landed themselves the "Russian Rocket", who would go on to become one of the most exciting players in the history of the NHL.

Related Articles