"We had always, as a team, going back to the late-'70s, attempted to draft players that were Eastern Bloc, as they said in those days," Griffiths said. "In the early-'80s, we continued to draft these guys, but we didn't have a really good shot at accessing them."
The Canucks knew Larionov and Krutov wouldn't come easy, if at all.
They were two of the most high-profile figures among the Soviet Union's prolific corps of elite athletes. They won two Olympic gold medals (1984 and 1988) to go with four world championships, two world junior championships and the 1981 Canada Cup.
The likelihood of the Soviet government letting two of their greatest athletes depart for North America wasn't high.
That's when Griffith got his big idea. As a show of good faith, why couldn't the Canucks send two of their own -- a player and a coach -- to the Soviet Union as part of a goodwill exchange?
NHL.com's Tal Pinchevsky has a great article up describing in detail how the Canucks managed to lift the Iron Curtain and get two spectacular Russian star players- Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov - out of the Soviet Union to play for a floundering Canucks team in need of change. This is probably the most in-depth account out there as to how they pulled it off and once again were groundbreakers in getting Eastern Bloc players to come to North America. Turns out, you need to send a coach and a player to their country, drink a lot of vodka, watch a circus, and get physically and mentally beat down by a Russian coach. Oh, but there is more!
It's a must-read. Check it out here.
Pretty ballsy and creative stuff by former Canucks owner Arthur Griffiths. Keep in mind the Canucks drafted Krutov 238th overall in 1986 and Larionov 214th overall in 1985. Why so late in the draft? Because they didn't know if they could get those guys to come here. In 1989, the Canucks would draft Pavel Bure 113th overall.
Krutov only played one season in the NHL and had a very hard time adjusting to life away from home. Larionov had a Hall Of Fame career. You're welcome, Detroit.