февраля 2001 года.
The Wings’ Fedorov is having one of his most
productive seasons // Detroit Free Press
His growing maturity has made him a ... resurgent Sergei
BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
This is the Sergei Fedorov the Red Wings need. The Fedorov who carries
the puck and outskates everyone else, who flies solo into the opponent's
zone and scores. The Fedorov whose feet might be slower than seven years
ago but whose shot is harder and mind stronger.
Fedorov is having his best season in ages, one borne partly from a
modified conditioning regimen and partly from maturity. At 31, he realizes
he won't ever be a lone superstar on a team like the Wings -- because they
have so many stars. Instead, he has discovered how to make the most of
the 22 minutes per game he averages on the ice, and how to do so consistently.
He leads the team with 25 goals and 53 points in 57 games. He was an
All-Star this season for the first time since 1996.
And this, his teammates need.
Surviving the Western Conference playoff race likely will be tougher
than in the past two seasons, when the Wings were eliminated in the second
round, and Fedorov's talent enables him to change the outcome of a game.
This season, the Wings have won 60 percent of their games when Fedorov
has scored, and they have gotten at least a point in 90 percent of those
"He's played very well," said captain Steve Yzerman, who has played
alongside Fedorov for going on 11 seasons. "He got off to a good start
and has continued with that. He's been real -- I don't want to say solid
because that's understating it -- but for what expectations are of him,
he's been very good."
With skills that place him among the elite in the NHL, expectations
always have been high. Astronomical, even, after Fedorov looted the league's
awards show following his 56-goal, 120-point season in 1993-94. But since
then expectations and reality at times have diverged widely, which is why
this season is such pleasant news.
A world-class player
After last season, Fedorov noticed that he needed more time to recover
after games. So he started lifting weights more often, tuning his body
as a whole instead of as parts.
"Conditioning is very important part of my game these days," Fedorov
said. "In the past I was paying attention to my wrists, my stomach, my
sides. These days I'm looking at overall my body and take care of it on
His equipment has been overhauled as well. Fedorov is using one of
the new graphite stick blades and has gone up five points in the stiffness
of the shaft he uses, which has made for a powerful impact. At the All-Star
Game skills competition, his shot was timed at better than 100 m.p.h.
"He's able to beat goalies from a distance," coach Scotty Bowman said.
"He's shooting more, and that comes from the confidence he can beat goalies
from a ways out. His shot is in the upper echelon of players in this league
But the biggest change in his game stems from acceptance. He used to
swear that he could play his best hockey only when he spent at least 28
minutes on the ice. Given less, he appeared at times to sulk and float.
This season, he has crammed offense and defense into the 21:47 he averages.
He has paid close attention to exactly what it is Bowman wants from a top
"I'm more cautious out there of what I'm doing," Fedorov said. "I'm
thinking why coaches think I'm not doing what they like to see me do. So
I think I learn that, and that makes my game a little more disciplined,
It has made his game even more dangerous and has placed him among the
top 23 scorers in the league. He is a lock to be among the eight members
of the Russian Olympic hockey team that are supposed to be announced by
March 25. He is the scourge of opponents.
"He's one of the great open-ice players of the game," Toronto coach
Pat Quinn said. "Before games, we spend time discussing what he likes to
do, how he likes to attack on certain sides, how he likes to overhandle
the puck sometimes.... We have to get good angles on him and take his room
Try telling that one to the Ottawa Senators. Last Tuesday, Fedorov
dashed into their zone without a single teammate after taking a pass from
Doug Brown. Fedorov tiptoed around Karel Rachunek and cut across to slide
the puck by goalie Patrick Lalime. Six Senators couldn't stop him.
"It was the kind of goal that's hard to do because he had to beat the
defenseman," Bowman said. "It was a highlight goal."
It was the kind of goal few players can make happen. And one that Fedorov
at one point wondered if he ever would score in a Wings uniform.
The toughest year
In the past year, Fedorov has donated about $15,000 to set up a closed-circuit
room at Children's Hospital of Michigan. He spent time there the day it
opened, chatting with children and answering questions about hockey. He
already had spent $10,000 to help buy presents for the hospital's Snow
Pile program. Fedorov also has sent $125,000 worth of hockey equipment
to Moscow. He is helping Morozov's Children's Hospital in Moscow acquire
a dialysis machine.
All that has been done without press releases, without fanfare. And
this from a guy who could use the prestige after the contract dispute that
kept him out of circulation for all but 21 games three years ago.
Fedorov's contract expired after he helped the Wings end a 42-year
drought by winning the Stanley Cup on June 6, 1997. A summer of fruitless
negotiating blossomed into autumn, and then winter. Fedorov was portrayed
as wanting an inordinate amount of money and was criticized publicly by
his Russian teammates for not accompanying them when they took the Cup
to Russia for the first time. All sides have since made up, and Fedorov,
for his part, put it down to miscommunication.
The bigger test lay in the coming months. He often wondered why his
team no longer wanted him. He had defected from Russia to play for the
Wings, and he had helped them win a championship. Why didn't they want
"It was an ocean of emotions, feelings, thoughts -- things that never
occurred in my hockey life ever before," Fedorov said. "And it was not
easy being out there by yourself."
Brown, a friend, teammate, even something of a mentor, tried to help.
"I think at first he thought it was a personal insult," Brown said.
"He felt Detroit was his home and he was concerned things weren't done
early. I tried to give him the point of view just because it hasn't worked
out yet, don't think it's not going to, because that's just big-time business
with big-time players."
During the Nagano Olympics in February 1998, Fedorov signed a six-year,
$38-million offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes that would have netted
him $28 million if the team won the Cup that year.
Publicly, he said he never would play for the Wings again.
Privately, he wondered if he could play for anyone else.
"I was trying to think, what if, what if, but honest truth, I never
like to see myself somewhere else," he said. "Because this is it, you know?
I defect, I live on the edge for a few years, I get my best seasons under
this coaching staff, I know all the guys, I've played with Steve for so
long ...it's meant to me a lot. And that's why I never really feel comfortable
even physically to think about that.
"When I said I'd never play here again, you have to remember those
nine months. With huge disappointment I realize they're not going to give
me chance to play for this team again because of the business. I took it
Within a week, the Wings matched the offer sheet and kept Fedorov.
Four months later, another Stanley Cup party rocked the city.
All about Anna
Since the Wings won the Cup in '97, Fedorov has been noticed for a
reason besides hockey: his friendship with tennis star Anna Kournikova,
19. Together with other players' families and friends, she waited for him
in the locker room after they clinched the championship with a 2-1 victory
over Philadelphia. The following week she sat next to him in a car as the
Wings paraded down Woodward Avenue in front of a million people. She attends
Red Wing games regularly.
Fedorov and Kournikova, who got engaged when she turned 18 in the summer
of 1999, have reaped considerable attention for their relationship. She
is a mainstay among the top 20 players on the women's tennis tour, and
her multiple endorsements have helped make hers a familiar face. Photogenic,
to say the least, she is known as much for her looks as for her tennis.
And Fedorov hasn't gone unscathed by the media attention. People close
to him acknowledge that he and Kournikova are engaged, but he doesn't want
to talk about it. It has been a well-kept secret.
The scrutiny reached a nadir last February, when news broke out of
Miami that Kournikova had accepted a marriage proposal from Florida Panthers
star Pavel Bure, a teammate of Fedorov's when they were teenagers. Fedorov
was portrayed in the media as having been cuckolded, but he kept quiet.
A few days later he visited Kournikova at a tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz.
They straightened out their relationship and are still engaged, but the
incident left a skid mark on Fedorov.
"I'm not a machine, I'm a human being," Fedorov said. "It is hard to
go through when somebody tries to mess up your life. Looking at all those
reactions from all those people who have absolutely no idea what's going
on and trying to make opinion.... None of the actual people involved, at
least me or Anna, said anything about it. Absolutely nothing. So I don't
know how people can judge, but that tells me people sometimes are blind,
they just want to take a shot.
"But you know what? On positive side, it obviously has shown me who
is really my friend. So that makes life much easier right now."
Kournikova and Fedorov see each other as often as possible, though
her almost year-round schedule, much of it taking place abroad, doesn't
make that easy. Fedorov tries to attend as many tournaments with her during
his off-season, making it to the French Open and Wimbledon last summer.
At times, he even serves as her practice partner.
"I like to say I have my moments on tennis court where I really play
well," he said.
"But it's a very tough game for me because I'm built for hockey, not
tennis. When we play, she gives me at least three shots over the net and
then she goes for winners. I have no chance."
In prime of career
Fedorov was 25 when he shot to the top of the league. In 1994 he became
the first European to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player.
He also won the Selke Award as the best defensive forward, the Lester B.
Pearson as the most outstanding player, and was almost every hockey magazine's
player of the year.
He thrived as Yzerman missed a large chunk of the season because of
a knee injury, and Yzerman's return to the lineup was bound to affect how
much Fedorov played. But few could have predicted the downswing in the
"I think people had reasonable expectations to think I could do it
again," Fedorov said. "That's why I was very frustrated and very disappointed
in myself when next season, next season, next season, I didn't do anything
except just have low points in my career every season I play.
"I played so much that year, and I was really pumped up for myself
to play again. It was my thing, I love it, I've done it, and I think I
can do it again and again. But hockey is a team game, period. We have quite
a few great players on this team, and it's never going to be designed for
one player. It sounds like I'm talking about me, me, me, but I'm trying
to explain and tell you what I've realized.
"I was sad I cannot do it again. But then I settle down, settle down
and look inside of me and realize, hey, things may not go that way, we
can try something new. It took me awhile to adjust and play well again."
He is again a game-breaker, a player who can create a goal out of nothing.
There's more consistency to his game; even when he doesn't produce, he
is always strong on defense. At the top of his game, skating with the puck,
he dazzles. "He is," Yzerman said, "kind of the ace up our sleeve."
He is the ace the Red Wings need.