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MAKING A FORTUNE : Now, They're Selling Soviet Ex-Goalie Tretiak, and Calgary Fans Are Buying

February 21, 1988|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

CALGARY, Canada — He stars in a deodorant commercial, has published one book and finished writing another, and will have his own video, soon to be available at your friendly neighborhood outlet.

Saturday, he had Calgarians queuing up in a line that stretched around the block while he signed autographs for two hours in a downtown department store.

Store officials said he drew a bigger crowd than Sophia Loren when she was here, pushing her new line of perfume.

If this were your basic North American superstar--Wayne Gretzky, say, or Magic Johnson or Gary Carter--it would be just another day in the selling of a celebrity athlete. But this was your atypical Merited Master of Sport, Vladislav Tretiak, the Soviet hockey goalie who has retired from active play but is just beginning to emerge as a marketable commodity. Moscow meets Madison Avenue. Is it any surprise that soon Soviets may be playing in the National Hockey League?

The same sports management company that represents Gretzky, the Edmonton-based Corp Sport International, has Tretiak as a client. Agent Danny Russell refused to divulge the price Tretiak commands--the money goes to the Soviet sports federation, which presumably gives Tretiak his share. But Russell said Tretiak, who will be 36 in April, was in Gretzky's class.

Gretzky and Tretiak star together in the TV ad, which was shot last September during the last Canada Cup competition. The two have a friendship that flowered in 1982, when the Edmonton Oiler star visited Moscow to shoot a documentary about hockey.

Tretiak, dressed in a suit of broad pinstripes with a red tie, was right at home with the scores of people who brought newspaper clippings, game programs, sticks, gloves, pads and even a few Soviet flags for him to sign. Some had copies of his autobiography, modestly titled "Tretiak: the legend."

Tretiak, who speaks limited English, said little while the line passed by, but he held babies in his lap while mothers and fathers took photographs and had a smile for many of his fans.

The reception he got here didn't really surprise him. "This is the mother land of hockey," he said. His video, he said, will be a training guide for goalies. "I'm giving out all my secrets," he said.

Tretiak said he didn't miss playing hockey; rather, he was glad to have more time to spend with his family. But did the Soviets miss him? He smiled.

"You can judge better yourself," he said. "Ask (Viktor) Tikhonov (the coach)."

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