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Grand jury indicts former union boss

R. Alan Eagleson, who rose to power as the founder of the NHL Players Association and agent of star players such as Bobby Orr, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston on charges of racketeering, fraud, obstruction of justice and embezzlement.

The 32-count indictment alleges that Eagleson used his position as executive director and agent to illegally acquire money. The government wants Eagleson to turn over $2-million in cash and assets, money that would eventually be funneled back into the players union.

"There was a misuse of trust that can't always be measured in dollars," U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern said at a news conference.

Eagleson's lawyer, Jeremiah T. O'Sullivan, issued a statement questioning whether the U.S. government had jurisdiction in the case since Eagleson is a Canadian citizen and the NHLPA is a Canadian labor organization.

"A quick review of the indictment reveals that it is remarkably vague and contains nothing more than a rehashing of stories which have been circulated in the press for a number of years," said O'Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor.

Stern said that at times material to this indictment, a substantial majority of NHL teams were in the United States. When Eagleson resigned in December 1991 as executive director of the NHLPA, there were 22 teams in the league and 15 were located in U.S. cities.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement: "Throughout the grand jury's investigation the NHL and its clubs have cooperated fully with representatives of the FBI and the United States Attorney's Office. We will continue to do so. We are pleased that the grand jury's investigation apparently disclosed no misconduct by any NHL (official) or NHL club official. Since the charges against Mr. Eagleson are now before the courts, we will have no further comment."

It is expected that Eagleson, 61, could be arraigned within a couple of weeks. The trial probably would not start until this fall, Stern said.

The charges carry different penalties. For instance, the count of racketeering could bring a maximum 20-year prison term and a maximum fine of $250,000. Each count of embezzlement of labor organization assets has the maximum of a five-year term and a $250,000 fine.

The FBI phase of the investigation into Eagleson focused on allegations that he defrauded the union and misappropriated funds from hockey tournaments, including the Canada Cup. A 1991 investigation by the Eagle-Tribune newspaper of Lawrence, Mass., reported that of the $24-million the Canada Cup raised in revenues, 75 percent went for expenses.

Around the league

Panthers: Florida recalled left wing Patrick Lebeau from the Cincinnati Cyclones and sent down left wing Jeff Greenlaw.

Canadiens: Montreal assigned Olympic hockey players Brian Savage and Jim Campbell to Fredericton of the American Hockey League.

_ TIMES WIRES

Gretzky update

Wayne Gretzky needs four to pass Gordie Howe and become the NHL's all-time goal-scorer:

Goals

Gordie Howe 801

Wayne Gretzky 798

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