The former head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, Sych only became widely known outside of Russia following his death in April 1997. Sych and his wife were ambushed by an unidentified gunman who unleashed a hail of bullets on their car. Although his wife was hit in the leg, she was able to summon the police by cell phone, albeit too late to save her husband. Sych had recently taken a public stance against the increasing interference by Russian mafia members in professional sports, and his death is believed to have been a mob assassination.
Sych served on the Soviet Sports Committee from 1969 to 1989, becoming its deputy head in 1984. Following a brief stint representing Russian winter sports on the International Olympic Committee, Sych became president of Russia's hockey federation in 1994. His death, at 60 years of age, occured on a country road near his Moscow villa.
Two months prior to his death, Sych revealed in a Reuters interview that criminal involvement in Russian sports was on the rise, and that many players and officials were scared by organized crime and facing pressure to take part in illegal ventures. Many Russian sports stars have alleged links to these powerful mob members, such as hockey star Pavel Bure, and tennis player Anna Kournikova-- to name a few. Others have had to go out of their way to avoid them, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs' Alexander Mogilny, who refused a lucrative contract to play in his native Russia for fear of kidnappers and extortionists.
Sych's murder is mainly believed to have been for financial gain-- as a result of the Russian government permitting sports federations to sell alcohol and cigarettes tax-free. This pumped millions of dollars into Russian hockey, which proved very attractive to the Russian mafia. Sych complained publicly about these gangsters, which may have cost him his life. Ten people were arrested for his murder, including Robert Cherenkov (his predecessor as head of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation), who was suspected of ordering the hit. In 1999, six suspects were convicted and sentenced to prison terms.