Vladimir Krutov, one of the finest hockey players ever to come out of the Soviet Union, died Wednesday in Moscow due to complications from internal bleeding. He was 52.
“We lost a great sportsman, who was part of the illustrious history of Soviet and Russian hockey,” Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying by the Kremlin press office. “[Krutov] was a born forward, sincere and open person, a true hero for millions of our fans.”
Born in Moscow, Vladimir Krutov quickly attracted attention for his play with a local factory team, Meteor, and was then invited to the hockey school of the CSKA Moscow club. He played with the team between 1978-89.
While with CSKA, Krutov and his teammates Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov formed one of the most formidable scoring forces ever to take the ice. The trio, along with defensemen Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov, led the Soviets to gold medal victories at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and multiple World Championship golds.
In addition to his two Olympic gold medals and five World championships, Krutov won 11 Soviet national championships, was named the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Best Forward twice (1986, 1987) and was selected to the All Star Team on four occasions (1983, 1985, 1986, 1987).
The IIHF reports that by the end of the decade, having done everything possible for his country at IIHF events, Krutov decided to give the NHL a try. Along with his CSKA teammate Larionov, Vladimir joined the Vancouver Canucks in 1989, but had difficulty adjusting to the culture and schedule of the league.
“It was a terrible experience for him,” former Canuck GM Pat Quinn said of Krutov’s NHL experience. “He really wasn’t enjoying it all and he didn’t want to be here. You could see flashes of his hockey ability from time to time but not enough. He couldn’t sustain it. He wasn’t conditioned well.”
In his brief time as a NHL player, Krutov played in 61 games, scoring 11 goals and 23 assists.
Upon his retirement as a hockey player, Vladimir Krutov stayed close to the ice, coaching the CSKA Moscow club from 2001 -2002 and later becoming a director a state sports school.
He was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2010.