A former coach of ex-Mighty Duck player Oleg Tverdovsky has been arrested after allegedly ordering accomplices to kidnap Tverdovsky’s mother and demand $200,000 in ransom, police said Saturday.
Tverdovsky’s mother, Alexandra, has returned safely to Anaheim after being abducted Jan. 30 outside an apartment building in Donetsk where she and her husband had gone to visit relatives.
Tverdovsky, traded to Winnipeg on Feb. 7 in the deal that brought Teemu Selanne to Anaheim, never told officials of either team about his family’s crisis, which didn’t end until after the trade when authorities rescued his mother Feb. 11 on a train bound from Moscow, where she was supposed to have been exchanged for the money.
“At that time, I couldn’t talk to anyone. She was in danger,” said Tverdovsky, 19. “Yeah, it was pretty tough.”
Authorities in Donetsk, Tverdovsky’s hometown, said the now-unemployed coach’s jealousy over Tverdovsky’s three-year, $4.2-million contract drove him to arrange Alexandra Tverdovsky’s abduction.
She was confined for 11 days in an apartment outside Donetsk. Tverdovsky’s father, Fedor, managed to persuade the kidnappers that he was cooperating, while working with police all along.
The coach, identified by police only as Nikolai V., “felt he deserved a big part of the money,” Vasyl Trubnikov, a police official in the eastern Ukrainian city, said in a telephone interview.
Tverdovsky, reached in his hotel room in Long Island, N.Y., where the Jets play tonight, said he has received little information.
“Until I find out for sure what really happened, and who’s really guilty, I’m waiting to say anything,” Tverdovsky said. “My mom is safe. I talked to her. She’s in Anaheim. She didn’t see any faces or know who it was. I don’t know what will happen. I’m just trying to find out right now. I’m waiting for phone calls.”
According to the Donetsk edition of the Russian newspaper Komso molskaya Pravda, the coach persuaded a woman identified as Tetiana R., an acquaintance who owed him money, to repay the debt by carrying out the abduction.
With a tear gas pistol, handcuffs and a photo of Tverdovsky’s mother provided by the coach, Tetiana and three other people-- one woman and two men--allegedly attacked the couple Jan. 30.
The next day, a woman called the elder Tverdovsky and demanded $200,000. When he asked where he was supposed to get that kind of money, the woman said, “Ask your son.”
According to Trubnikov, all five alleged participants been charged with extortion and face a maximum seven-year sentence if convicted.
Tverdovsky is one of several NHL players from the former Soviet Union who have been victims of extortion attempts, including former Buffalo Sabre Alexander Mogilny, who now plays for Vancouver.
Anaheim General Manager Jack Ferreira said Tverdovsky “never came to us” during the crisis, and neither he nor assistant general manager David McNab knew of the kidnapping until Saturday.
“Oleg deserves an unbelievable amount of credit for playing through something no one knew was going on, his coaches, his teammates,” McNab said. “People were saying he wasn’t playing that well, but if this is true, it’s almost unbelievable he was playing under those circumstances at all.”
“When the trade came, there would have been no one. The trade came down and his mother was kidnapped, his father was over there. He would have had his girlfriend, that’s it. No family, you’re 19 years old, all this going on and he uproots and goes to Winnipeg. If that sort of thing happened to most people, they’d have friends and relatives, 50 people in their house. Oleg would have had no one.”