The NHL / Jerry Crowe : Canucks Negotiating With Soviets

The Vancouver Canucks are negotiating a deal with Soviet hockey officials that could land them in Moscow next fall for training camp.

That's one of the proposals made by the Canucks in an effort to land Soviet players Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Viktor Tuminev.

Krutov, 27, and Larionov, 24, are expected to make up two-thirds of the Soviets' No. 1 line next month at the Winter Olympics, Canuck President Pat Quinn said.

Krutov is a winger. Larionov and Tuminev, 29, are centers.

How good are they?

"If we were able to bring those three to our team after the Olympics," Quinn said, "they would make an immediate impact."

Among the 21 National Hockey League teams, the Canucks have had one of the closest working relationships with the Soviets.

Last spring, they arranged for a hip replacement in Vancouver for former Soviet coach Anatoli Tarasov. Last summer, they dispatched assistant coach Jack McIlhargey and goaltender Troy Gamble to work with the Soviet team.

And last fall, Tarasov and Vladislav Tretiak, the Soviets' heralded former goaltender, spent three days at the Canucks' training camp.

Sending the entire team to Moscow for a couple of weeks next fall, Quinn said, would be part of a further "cultural exchange" with the Soviets and would be an educational experience for the Canucks.

"We see several European teams, and especially the Russians, developing the skills of their younger players far better than we are in North America," Quinn said. "We'd like to determine why they are having more success in developing fundamental skills."

It won't happen, though, if the Soviets don't release either Krutov, Larionov or Tuminev, all of whom were drafted by the Canucks in the last three years.

Quinn said the Soviets, who met in Moscow last fall with NHL President John Ziegler and Alan Eagleson, executive director of the NHL Players' Assn., seem more receptive than ever to release players to the NHL, "especially in regard to older players."

Brian Burke, director of hockey operations for the Canucks, spoke with Soviet officials about that possibility this month at the junior world championships at Moscow.

"It appears that they are ready to make this step," Quinn said of the Soviets. "As to whether it will ever come to fruition, your guess is as good as mine."

Getting to the bottom line, Quinn said: "It's a political process, as well as a decision that would be made at the hockey level."

Jacques Demers, coach of the Detroit Red Wings, on center Steve Yzerman, whose club-record 22-game point-scoring streak, longest in the NHL this season, was ended last week: "He is to us what Isiah Thomas is to the (Detroit) Pistons."

Yzerman had 50 points during his streak, including 20 goals.

Social Note: Wayne Gretzky said last week that he and actress Janet Jones are engaged and plan to be married this summer in Edmonton.

Jones, 25, is a former girlfriend of tennis pro Vitas Gerulaitis.

It has been reported that the Calgary Flames are considering loaning Joe Nieuwendyk to Team Canada for the Olympics.

Not true, said Cliff Fletcher, Flame general manager.

Fletcher said Nieuwendyk is not eligible to be loaned to the Canadian Olympic team because the NHL passed a resolution last month that said its teams could loan only one of their second 10 players to either the U.S. or Canadian Olympic programs without that player first having to clear waivers.

A virtual shoo-in for Rookie of the Year honors, Nieuwendyk has been much more than that for the Flames.

Second on the team with 56 points, including 33 goals, he leads the NHL with 19 power-play goals. He has four hat tricks, including two four-goal games. He scored a goal and had an assist Tuesday night against Vancouver, giving him points in his last 15 games. During the streak, he has 18 goals and 11 assists.

Ardent supporters of the Olympics, the Flames "are committed to making available to our Olympic team a good hockey player," Fletcher said.

But it won't be Nieuwendyk.

Speaking of the Winter Games, Toronto's Ed Olczyk said of U.S. Olympian Brian Leetch, the New York Rangers' No. 1 draft choice in 1986: "He's a future Norris Trophy winner (as the NHL's best defenseman). He's going to win it three, four, maybe five times."

The Kings hold the rights to only one Olympian, Craig Redmond of Team Canada, whom they suspended last October when Redmond refused to report to their American Hockey League affiliate at New Haven, Conn.

Goaltender Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers, ejected from a 7-5 loss last week against the New Jersey Devils, was baited into an outburst by referee Don Koharski, Flyer Coach Mike Keenan said.

According to Keenan, Koharski said to Hextall, who had given up two goals in the first 8 minutes 33 seconds: "The way you are playing, I should throw you out."

Hextall, who blew up at Koharski but later said that he hadn't said anything to him that he hadn't said previously to other referees, was ejected at 9:16.

"It's about time the referees should be accountable for their actions," Keenan said. "The referee has no right to make personal references about a goalie's play."

Hextall, by the way, has had few other setbacks of late. In his last 22 starts, he is 17-2-2 with 1 no-decision and a 3.05 goals-against average.

According to USA Today, "enforcers" Chris Nilan of the Montreal Canadiens and Dave Brown of the Philadelphia Flyers had the following exchange during a recent game:

Brown to Nilan: "What are you doing on the power play?"

Nilan to Brown: "What are you doing in the league?"

Touche.

For What It's Worth: In 8 games since actress Madolyn Smith accepted his marriage proposal, Mark Osborne of the Toronto Maple Leafs has 5 goals and 9 assists.

Randy Cunneyworth is one bad boy apparently unwilling to learn from his mistakes.

After the NHL suspended him for eight games for a pair of high-sticking incidents last week, the Pittsburgh left winger said the sentence wouldn't deter him from repeating the offense.

"I think it's very harsh," he said of the suspension, which begins Friday unless appealed. "I think three games would have been a good sentence. It was totally accidental. I guess I'll have to get batter at it and not get caught."

Parting shot: Pat Foley, radio and television announcer for the Chicago Blackhawks, on the battered nose of Tim Hunter of the Calgary Flames: "It looks like he ran a 100-yard dash in a 90-yard gym."

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