Bruins tried for Yakushev

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

The Boston Bruins tried to get Soviet great Alexander Yakushev for a song back in 1972 and become the National Hockey League's first Euro power.

Bruins' president Harry Sinden, who helped open the new World Of Hockey Zone at the Hall of Fame yesterday, said he was in secret talks with the former Soviet Union through the U.S. State Department to get Big Yak for the B's on a "cultural exchange."

Sinden, who had coached Team Canada over the Red Machine in the 1972 Summit Series and was general manager/coach of the Bruins, had hoped to put the 6-foot-3 left winger Yakushev right onto the Stanley Cup champion Boston roster.

"We enlisted Senator (Ted) Kennedy's office in Massachusetts to see if we somehow couldn't go outside the system and get a cultural exchange," Sinden said. "I was going to send them an opera singer or someone such as that. It didn't work."

Yakushev's height and bulk would have made him ideal for the NHL. He was Russia's top scorer in the Summit Series, won two Olympic gold medals and was top forward at the 1975 world championships. He played in his homeland until 1983.

With the Bruins foiled, it was the Maple Leafs who began the NHL's first real European experiment in 1973, signing Swedish defenceman Borje Salming and winger Inge Hammarstrom. It wasn't until the late 1980s that top Soviet stars such as Slava Fetisov and Igor Larionov were released for the NHL.


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