Bure scores big in debut as a Ranger

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

NEW YORK -- An overjoyed Pavel Bure had just one concern when he joined the New York Rangers on Tuesday: Would his choice of a No. 9 jersey offend anyone?

Bure, traded to New York from the Florida Panthers on Monday, joined his new teammates at the morning skate and scored a goal Tuesday night in a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Upon his arrival at Madison Square Garden shortly after 10 a.m., the 30-year-old Russian laughed as he chatted on the bench with Brian Leetch and Theo Fleury, and furrowed his brow in deep concentration as he talked strategy with new linemate Eric Lindros.

Lindros later set up Bure for the goal -- his 23rd of the season -- midway through the second period.

"I'm here to help the team make the playoffs," Bure said. "I can tell you, I will do what I can to help. I will do whatever the coach and the GM want me to do."

The only glitch was working out his jersey number.

Bure asked Rangers GM Glen Sather on Monday if he could wear No. 9, made famous by former Montreal Canadiens forward Maurice "Rocket" Richard. The NHL trophy named after Richard -- awarded to the league's leading goal scorer -- has gone to Bure the past two seasons.

The last Ranger to wear the number was the beloved Adam Graves, and Bure was extremely concerned he'd insult the veteran, now with San Jose. But Graves gave his blessing to a Rangers public relations executive, and Bure hoped to thank him in person after leaving a phone message.

"It's a good number," Bure said, smiling.

No. 10, which Bure wore in Florida, is worn by Sandy McCarthy.

"I don't think the number really matters to him," McCarthy said, adding Bure had not approached him.

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