BUCHAREST – Once sought after by both CSKA Moscow and the Montreal Canadiens, Romania's all-time top scorer and IIHF Hall of Famer died at the age of 60 on Tuesday.
"During his peak, he could have played for any of the best teams in the world, even the CSKA Moscow coaches said at the time they could had found a place for him in their team," said a dejected Sandor Gal to IIHF.com following the loss of his teammate and dear friend from many years at the Romanian national team and one playing together at Dinamo Bucharest.
So bright was his talent that it shone through across both sides of the Iron Curtain. Having opened CSKA's eyes during frequent exhibition games in Moscow, the Montreal Canadiens were also reported to have offered Tureanu a lorryload of dollars to woo the Romanian star to continue his career in the National Hockey League.
Fearing any repercussions that a defection under the political circumstances of that era could mean to his family, Tureanu stayed loyal to Bucharest and devoted his entire playing career to his home-town club Dinamo. Having made his debut at the age of 14, Tureanu played for capital-based club in red and white between 1969 and 1987, winning six domestic championships during an era in Romanian ice hockey when city rivals Dinamo and Steaua not only shared the Mihai Flamaropol ice rink in Eastern Bucharest, but also the duopoly of league championships.
His golden years coincided as Romania were punching above their weight in international ice hockey affairs. With 112 points (74 goals and 39 assists) Tureanu represented Romania during two Olympic Winter Games (Innsbruck 1976 and Lake Placid 1980) and in 17 IIHF World Championships between 1971 and 1987, which included many memorable moments and one participation in the top division in 1977.
At the 1977 IIHF World Championships, Tureanu spearheaded the attack together with his two Dinamo-linemates, Dumitru Axinte and Marian Costea, as Romania went on to record a memorable 5-4 win over the United States. Another fine performance on the international stage came three years later, beating reigning bronze medallists West Germany at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics 6-4.
Having trailed 4-2 in the second period, Romanian then bounced back led by hat-trick hero Tureanu who turned the game in Romania's favour to record a sensational start to the Olympic tournament where Romania in the end finished eight out of twelve teams.
"He was the best forward ever in Romanian hockey. He had all the things a forward would need, intelligence, skill, great shot and he was a team player," remembered Gal.
Hockey in Bucharest has fallen on hard times after Tureanu’s retirement. He saw his beloved Dinamo close down their hockey section and then last year, the Mihai Flamaropol ice rink in Bucharest where he once made his name closed its doors.
Tureanu's indictment to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2011, as the second Romanian after Eduard Pana, showed that despite being forgotten in Bucharest, his virtuoso performances had forever left a legacy in the wider hockey world.