Slap shot

Murder hits minor-league hockey. Plus, Chris Chelios gets whistled for DUI.
By MATT TAIBBI  |  January 20, 2010

1001_rudenko_main
Here's a story that hasn't gotten a ton of traction with the national media, probably because its main characters are a) foreign, b) play an unpopular sport, and c) are not Tiger Woods and not sleeping with pancake-house waitresses.

Bogdan "Rudy" Rudenko, a minor-league hockey player who was most recently with the now-defunct Colorado Springs Gold Kings, has been arrested in connection with the Stallings, North Carolina, shooting of a friend and former teammate of his (some reports describe him as an "associate") named Yuri Kharitonov.

On December 20, Kharitonov was found shot dead behind an auto repair shop in North Carolina. Police somehow connected the victim to Rudenko, who himself had ties to North Carolina — he had been on the rosters of several teams, including the Winston-Salem Twin City Cyclones, Charlotte Checkers, and the Asheville Smoke.

Five days later, authorities discovered Rudenko hiding out in a Colorado Springs hotel. A six-hour standoff ensued, ending with Rudenko surrendering and being taken to the El Paso County jail.

Nobody has come up with a reason yet for this killing. "We've been unable to establish a motive for this murder, this homicide," Stallings Police Chief Larke Plyler told reporters.

Some former teammates have speculated that Rudenko might be reliving the plot of Slap Shot, in which small-time hockey players find themselves blindsided by the potential (in this case, real) folding of their team.

"You can only guess at what kind of stress he was under," said former Gold Kings teammate RJ Enga, currently an assistant coach for the Topeka Roadrunners. "When teams fold like that, it's tough because you don't have a plan B."

Rudenko played for a top junior team in Canada at a young age and was on track for an NHL career when he ruptured his Achilles tendon. He went on to play for the Quad City Mallards in Iowa for four years. He was apparently looking to return to Russia when this happened.

It should also be noted that deaths (and murders), are not particularly rare in the world of Russian hockey, and the disputes do not always have to do with sports. It may be that police will ultimately find a motive connected to certain "structures" (as the Russians say) back in the old country. Or maybe it's a personal thing.

Who knows — but it's not often that you see one athlete killing another (if that is in fact happened here). In any case, he automatically gets 90 points on our list for a murder charge. We'll see if it holds up in court.

Minor trouble
Sticking with the minor-league hockey theme, former NHL great Chris Chelios — yes, the same Chris Chelios who you last saw playing with the Red Wings, competing in his 25th season in 2009 — is not, as you might have thought, retired.

Instead, it seems he has been playing with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, apparently in an effort to rekindle interest among pro teams as we steam toward the playoff season.

Chelios is now 47 years old and soon will be entering the Gordie Howe diaper-wearing stage of his career. And at that age, it might actually have been cool to see him get back on the big-time ice, but he hit a bit of a speed bump around the New Year.

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