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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kidnap Ordeal Ends for Hockey Star's Mother

KIEV -- The mother of Ukrainian hockey star Oleg Tverdovsky, now playing in North America's National Hockey League, was kidnapped and held for almost two weeks at the order of his former coach, according to Donetsk police reports.


Alexandra Tverdovskaya was held in an apartment outside Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine while the kidnappers demanded $200,000 ransom, which the coach, identified by police only as Nikolai V., felt he was entitled to as a share of the player's $4.2 million contract, police said.


The kidnapping, which was carried out Jan. 30, ended when authorities rescued the player's mother on the morning of Feb. 11 on a train bound for Moscow, where she was supposed to have been exchanged for the money. The coach and four alleged accomplices have been arrested, police said.


Tverdovskaya's ordeal only became known last week when it was reported by the Donetsk edition of Komsomolskaya Pravda. She has now returned safely to Anaheim, California, where she was living before going back to Ukraine with her husband for a visit.


On Feb. 7, in the midst of the ordeal, Tverdovsky was traded from Anaheim to Winnipeg, but he never told officials of either team about his family's crisis.


"At that time, I couldn't talk to anyone. She was in danger," Tverdovsky, 19, said on Sunday. "Yeah, it was pretty tough."


Authorities in Donetsk, Tverdovsky's hometown, said the former coach's jealousy over Tverdovsky's three-year contract drove him to arrange Mrs. Tverdovskaya's abduction. Hockey in Donetsk has fallen on hard times and the city's rinks have all closed, throwing many coaches out of work, including Nikolai.


The coach, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda, worked with Tverdovsky when he attended the Donetsk Youth 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."


Komsomolskaya Pravda said the coach persuaded a woman acquaintance -- identified by police as Tatyana R. -- 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, Tatyana along with her husband, her cousin and her cousin's boyfriend, allegedly attacked the couple Jan. 30.


Fedor Tverdovsky was reportedly hit over the head and his wife was abducted.


The next day, a woman called Fedor Tverdovsky and demanded $200,000. When he asked where he was supposed to get that kind of money, the woman said, "Ask your son."


Tatyana was arrested en route to Moscow with the victim, while the coach and Tatyana's extended family were arrested in Donbass.


According to Trubnikov, all five alleged participants have been charged with extortion and face a maximum seven-year sentence if convicted.


Tverdovsky played two years for Moscow's Krylya Sovietov before being the second overall player taken in the NHL entry draft by Anaheim and then traded to Winnipeg for Teemu Selanne of Finland.


"Oleg deserves an unbelievable amount of credit for playing through something no one knew was going on, his coaches, his teammates," said David McNab, Anaheim's assistant general manager. "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 [for him to turn to]. 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."


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, an NHL star who now plays for Vancouver.


Sergei Fomichov had helped the then-20-year-old to defect from the Soviet Union in 1989, but after a dispute over finances two years ago, Fomichov threatened to injure Mogilny and end his career. Fomichov was arrested in the United States, convicted and jailed for second-degree extortion.


Other athletes, from sprinter Irina Privalova to Mogilny's teammate Pavel Bure, have expressed concern that they may be targeted by criminals in Russia.


(LAT, MT)