February 06, 2016
The odds of any player making it to the National Hockey League are incredibly slim. But Bureau was used to overcoming long odds. He was never drafted by a NHL team. He could barely speak much English when he turned pro.
Marc Bureau was always knew he could make it to the NHL. All he needed a chance was a chance, and he was in hurry to get it. Which is ironic given that his laboured skating is what threatened to keep him on the outside looking in.
Bureau was an agitating, blue collar player, always trying to get under the skin of his opponents. He played with great intensity and urgency, which allowed him to be a tenacious penalty killer and a dogged faceoff man.
He had decent enough hands but, despite scoring 50 goals in junior, he was never much of an offensive threat as a pro.
Bureau was never drafted out of junior, but he was certain he could play in the NHL. He continued to pursue that dream, signing as a free agent in the Calgary Flames organization. Though Calgary's legendary general manager Cliff Fletcher prophetically praised him as "a Brian Skrudland type of player," he probably never really expected Bureau to be more than a minor league depth player.
But Bureau would never have settled for that.
"I think I'm ready to go to the NHL. If not with Calgary, then there are 20 more teams in the NHL," Bureau said in the days before the NHL expanded to a 30 team league."
"Maybe I'm too anxious to go (to the NHL)," he continued. "Some guys are satisfied down to be here (in the minor leagues). Some guys are too satisfied. I'm 23 and if I wait too long...careers are shorter now."
Many of Bureau's teammates in the Flames organization may have gotten complacent because the Flames NHL team was very strong at the time, winning the Stanley Cup in 1989. It would take a couple more years but Bureau persisted.
After emerging as a 40 goal threat with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, Bureau got into only 10 career games with the Flames.
He would finally get his chance when he joined the Minnesota North Stars at the traded deadline in 1991. He proved to be a nice fit with the Stars for their surprising ride all the way to the Stanley Cup final.
Bureau continued proved he could be an effective third or fourth line center in an injury plagued 1991-92 season.
The following season he joined the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning via the expansion draft. Maybe it took adding two more teams (the Ottawa Senators also joined the NHL at that time) but Marc Bureau finally made it. He would remain with the Lightning for three full seasons.
In the summer of 1995 Bureau got to fulfill a childhood dream when he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for veteran Brian Bellows. He would wear the famed Montreal jerseys for three seasons before spending two seasons in Philadelphia.
Bureau would conclude his career in Calgary, of all places. The Flyers traded Bureau to the Flames at the trade deadline in 2000. The final nine games of his NHL career were played with the team that he started with - a nice set of bookends for his career.
All told Marc Bureau overcame the odds to play in 567 NHL contests, scoring 55 goals and 138 points. He added another 50 games in the playoffs.