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The Man Who Discovered Pavel Bure

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Pavel Bure, Vancouver Canucks

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Both hockey in general and the NHL in particular are chock full of outstanding people. And they don’t get much better than Toronto Maple Leafs pro scout Mike Penny, who is celebrating 50 years in the game this season.

Mike Penny discovered Pavel Bure. He doesn’t go around bragging about that, even though it’s one of those career-defining achievements. The 72-year-old was working as the chief scout of the Vancouver Canucks at the time and it’s interesting to note that, like Penny, the Canucks are celebrating their 50th anniversary. While it’s acknowledged that both Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and a number of other players, had better careers as Canucks, Bure is the most dynamic, superstar level player ever to don a Canucks uniform.

For those of you not familiar with the story, the Canucks took Bure in the 1989 draft and other teams went berserk. The Detroit Red Wings, who had already taken Mike Sillinger, Bob Boughner, Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov by the time the Canucks took Bure 113th (and would get Dallas Drake and Vladimir Konstantinov in later rounds to round out the greatest draft in NHL history), had every intention of taking Bure, but thought he was ineligible. But more on that later.

The Griffiths family, who owned the Canucks at the time, was starting to make inroads in the former Soviet Union and kept inquiring about how to get one of their best young players. So Penny started going there. If this were today, the hockey world would have known Bure by the time he was 13 or 14, but so much of that country and its players were shrouded in secrecy. It was a very different time. Penny remembers going to Moscow and checking into a hotel that had two channels. “One had the ballet,” Penny recalled, “and the other had Soviet tank maneuvers.”

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