Hockey Night in Canada

Legendary Russian forward Vladimir Krutov dead

Vladimir Krutov, one of the Soviet Union's all-time great ice hockey players and part of the national team's formidable KLM Line, has died. He was 52.
Seen at a charity game in February, Vladimir Krutov was 52. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images )

Vladimir Krutov, one of the Soviet Union's all-time great ice hockey players and part of the national team's formidable KLM Line, has died. He was 52.

The Russian Hockey Federation said Krutov died Wednesday. It did not give a cause of death, but the ITAR-Tass news agency said he had been taken to a hospital several days earlier for stomach bleeding.

"Volodya was such a dependable and steadfast man that I would have gone anywhere with him — to war, to espionage, into peril. There are fewer and fewer guys like him in every generation of  hockey players," federation president and former Soviet goaltender  Vladislav Tretyak told the Sport-Express newspaper.

Born in Moscow, Krutov gathered 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. 

Krutov vs. Canada

Unsurprisingly, given his talent and his linemates, Vladimir Krutov had some great games against Canada and NHL all-star teams.

He scored a short-handed goal and added an assist in one of Canada's lowest hockey moments, the 8-1 drubbing in the final of the 1981 Canada Cup.

The stocky forward known as "The Tank" scored twice six years later to help the Soviets salvage a split of the Rendez-vous two-game set, which replaced the NHL All-Star Game.

Krutov and his CSKA teammates Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov formed one of the most potent scoring lines that hockey has ever seen, and led the Soviet team to gold in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.

He was also part of the team that lost to the United States at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics and won five world championship titles in the 1980s.

Along with defencemen Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov, they became known as the "Green Unit" for the colour of their practice jerseys.

He was one of the first Soviet players to play in the NHL, but spent only one undistinguished season with the Vancouver Canucks.

"It is with sadness that the Vancouver Canucks learned today of the passing of former Canuck Vladimir Krutov," the NHL team stated in a news release. "The Vancouver Canucks sends our deepest condolences to the Krutov family."

Krutov later played for Zurich and Swedish lower-league clubs Ostersund and Brunflo, and coached CSKA for one season in 2001-02.

After that, he was director at a state sports school. In 2010, he was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation's hall of fame.

Krutov was 30 when he joined the Canucks, but appeared older. He reportedly signed a three-year deal with the Canucks, but lasted just one season, clashing with coach Bob McCammon.

"When you sit on a bench for 15 minutes and then come on to the ice for just three minutes, you feel your legs are swollen and you can't move at top speed," he said late in the season through an interpreter.

Krutov came back to Vancouver in September, but general manager Pat Quinn and the Canucks deemed his fitness level not up to the task for playing in the NHL.

Teammate Larionov had greater success, lasting three seasons with Vancouver.

The Canucks released a statement Wednesday expressing their condolences to Krutov's family.

With files from CBCSports.ca