Vladimir Krutov has unexpectedly died at the age of 52.
He was one of the earliest Russian players to make it into the NHL in the 1989-90 campaign, having previously gained fame as a high scoring left winger on the vaunted KLM line that led the Russian national team to tremendous success in the Winter Olympics and at the World Championships.
The diagnosis made public was a stomach hemorrhage, causing internal bleeding, but details are still short at this time. Liver failure has also been cited in some other reports.
Krutov was a thickly built player with bull-like strength. He was often referred to as ‘The Tank’ in his Soviet homeland, but was capable of tantalizing skill on the puck.
(Sergei Makarov was the right wing on the KLM unit, who also reached the NHL with the Calgary Flames).
His triumphs included key roles on five World Championship winners, as well as back to back Olympic gold in 1984 and 1988. However, the player who eventually arrived in Vancouver at the age of 29 was on the downside of his career.
Following his long list of achievements, it appeared to many that he had come to North America to simply earn a big paycheque.
He was quite overweight and ill prepared for the western lifestyle.
It was rumored he had a real love of hamburgers.
Krutov spoke little to no English, and struggled to find common ground or interests with North American peers who had an equally poor understanding of the Russian culture.
He played just one season, with a poor total of 11 goals in 61 appearances.
However, it would be a shame to remember the shy Russian for his miserable experience in the NHL, rather than the dominating play he helped contribute with the KLM line of Russia and club team CSKA Moscow.
Check out this clip of Krutov potting a sweet shot against the Montreal Canadiens