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Hockey star clings to life, one week after winning Stanley Cup

June 14, 1997

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) _ A week after helping the Detroit Red Wings win their first Stanley Cup in 42 years, Vladimir Konstantinov was clinging to life today after a limousine he was in veered out of control and hit a tree.

Konstantinov, 30, suffered life-threatening head injuries. He and a masseur for the hockey team, Sergei Mnatsakanov, were both in critical condition, said Dr. James Cisek of the William Beaumont Hospital.

Another player, Viacheslav Fetisov, 39, and the driver of the limousine that crashed into the tree Friday night were also injured. Fetisov was in fair condition with chest injuries and a bruised lung, Cisek said.

The driver, Richard Gnida, 28, was listed in fair condition.

Red Wings spokesmen said 17 players had been gone golfing Friday afternoon; the limo with Konstantinov and Fetisov had left early.

Witnesses said the limo veered out of control in the Oakland County suburb of Birmingham at about 9:30 p.m. and swerved into a median where it hit the tree.

Gnida does not have a valid driver’s license, the Detroit Free Press reported. Liz Boyd, a spokeswoman for the Michigan secretary of state, told the newspaper that the license was most recently revoked in January 1996.

A month later, Gnida was ticketed for speeding and driving while his license was suspended. Last July, he was given an additional revocation.

His case was not eligible for review until January 1998, Ms. Boyd said.

Limo company owner John Gambino said he didn’t know about the problems. He said he has a secretary who checks records before drivers are hired.

Players and team owner Mike Ilitch were at the hospital and fans held a candlelight vigil outside.

On June 7, the Red Wings finished a four-game sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers to capture its first Stanley Cup championship since 1955. One of the key players was Konstantinov, the stony-faced defenseman called ``Vlad the Impaler″ by his teammates and other, worse things by opponents.

The native of Murmansk, Russia, played for Russia’s Central Red Army club before joining the Red Wings in 1991.

Fetisov, called ``Papa Bear,″ also played for the Red Army team. He joined Detroit in 1995 after five seasons with the New Jersey Devils and a lengthy international career that includes Olympic titles in 1984 and 1988.

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