Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички
июля 2003 года.
Fedorov's escape from USSR was still more daring - The Detroit News
By Jerry Green / The Detroit News
DETROIT--Somehow he had escaped. He had slipped away from his guardians, those dangerous men who were supposed to keep him in captivity.
He was a soldier in the Soviet army, assigned to play hockey -- and suddenly, Sergei Fedorov was free.
He was now a capitalist athlete in America with the Red Wings. But back in Mother Russia, he was considered a deserter, a traitor.
No wonder he was scared stiff four years later -- after the regime had collapsed, and he returned to visit his homeland. The NHL was clogged in a labor stoppage, a capitalistic event, and the Russian players went home to play a series of games.
We rode together on a bus on a frigid day in November 1994.
Sergei was full of jitters. He looked over his shoulder, fearing shadowy figures in the aisle. He looked out the window as the bus left the Solonicki ice rink for the city center. Someone might be running out to halt the bus.
"Hurry up," he said.
I wasn't supposed to be on this bus. The journalists had been restricted to a dinky bus full of gasoline and tobacco fumes. The Russian players, returned from exile, rode in a plush bus.
"What do you need?" Sergei said.
To talk to you for a few minutes. Then I'll get on the Metro and go back to my hotel.
I had finagled my way onto the players' bus with the assistance of Sergei Makarov and Igor Larionov, both then with San Jose.
I had some questions about his return home, about his boyhood. Fedorov said he was happy, but his legs quivered.
"How much longer?" he said.
A few minutes.
Sergei twisted in his seat.
"There's a Metro station," he said.
A few more minutes.
We rode on, Sergei glancing over his shoulder every few moments.
Then we stopped at a red light.
"You got enough?" he asked. "There's another Metro station."
"OK," I said, and got off the bus.
A few weeks later we both had escaped back to America. I got a phone call from a friend of Fedorov's.
"Sergei would like to talk to you."
We went to dinner in Southfield. Sergei chauffeured me in a BMW.
"I was scared. I didn't know what to expect," he told me.
Those big guys I saw at the rink, at the bus, always watching you. Were they armed?
Fedorov looked at me.
"They had guns this big," he said. He held his hands a foot apart.
The other day Fedorov escaped again. He had been a skilled player with the Red Wings for 13 years. Through those years, he had sometimes sulked about his teammates. Sometimes Scotty Bowman whispered sarcastic asides about Sergei's lifestyle.
I think Fedorov goofed leaving Detroit. But the Red Wings made mistakes, too, in the way they often treated him.
Freedom is precious, always.
MITCH ALBOM: Wings let Fedorov fly to Ducks for nothing
BY MITCH ALBOM
You leave work Friday afternoon, the Red Wings are talking contract with Sergei Fedorov. You come in Monday morning, and Fedorov is a Mighty Duck.
Talk about a lost weekend.
What happened? How did the Wings let their most talented player get away for nothing?
Well, as Orange County real estate agents begin hunting for a new mansion, here's the bottom line:
Sergei saw himself one way, the Wings saw him another.
This is how Sergei saw himself: as a star. That means minutes. That means treatment. That means clothes, photos, gossip, the works. Some of that comes from before he ever got here, when he was a wunderkind in Russia, embraced as a national treasure. Some of it comes from his time as paramour -- and, briefly, husband -- to Anna Kournikova, who has the star treatment thing down to a science.
And some of it comes from his own head. Fedorov looked around the locker room and saw that he was the fastest and most talented guy on the roster. By his logic, that makes him the best. And being the best makes him the biggest star, right?
Not so fast. Detroit -- and hockey in general -- celebrates effort and heart as much as talent, and in this town, during Fedorov's 13-year stay, the Wings were Steve Yzerman's team -- in body and spirit. Not once did Fedorov achieve the adulation or applause that Yzerman enjoys -- not from fans, management or teammates.
"Well, hey," critics will say, "he never earned it the way Yzerman did" -- and they might be right.
But once again, Sergei saw things one way, the Wings saw them another.
Which brings us to the home team. I've heard many things said about Fedorov's departure, but no one has offered much criticism of Red Wings management.
I don't care how much of a prima donna you might think the guy is: When your most gifted player gets away for nothing -- not even a draft pick -- you didn't handle your business well. It's that simple. It might have been unavoidable. But one of the tricks of great managers is to slither out of the "unavoidable" before it bites them in the butt.
The Wings, in hindsight, might have assumed too much "boy who cried wolf" with Fedorov. They gauged the marketplace, saw a shrinking dollar, and thought their offers would stack up with any others. They were also, understandably, weary of Sergei's confusing ego.
But if you want a thoroughbred, you better expect some bucking. And, if you don't want the guy, the time to do something was last year, when you could have traded him. Why do you think the Pistons got rid of their best player, Jerry Stackhouse, with one year left on his deal? They knew he was approaching free agency and they knew they didn't want to meet his demands.
Once you commit to keeping Fedorov through the end of his contract, you've made an implicit decision to sign him to another. This isn't a salary cap sport, remember. There is no bar to stay under. It does you no good to let him walk.
"But they didn't let him walk," critics say. "They offered him deals. He refused them."
Well, once again, the Wings saw it one way, and Sergei saw it another.
"Obviously, I was trying to sign with Detroit," Fedorov said during a conference call from Russia, "but every time it came close, we were not able to reach some kind of agreement."
The Wings, of course, disagree. They say Fedorov turned down several offers and even stopped talking with them toward the end.
But again they are thinking like management, not like Fedorov. They were right. The marketplace wouldn't offer Fedorov more -- but that assumes it's all about money. With most players, maybe it is. With Fedorov, there was more. There was the star treatment that he privately coveted.
If they really wanted to keep him, the Wings should have gone back to their original offer, five years, $50 million. Marketplace? Since when do the Wings observe the marketplace? They make the marketplace.
And in their marketplace, Nicklas Lidstrom earns $10 million a year. In Sergei's psyche, that probably set the bar. He wanted to be the highest-paid player. And if that's what it took to keep him, the Wings should have done it.
Instead, he disappears for nothing, and Detroit loses its most talented skater. I know there are some Red Wings who are privately relieved to be rid of his self-absorbed behavior. But he is a great player, and his points, assists and speed will not be replaced by any one body on this roster.
As for fans who are stunned that Sergei would ditch the only NHL team he's ever known? Remember, this is a guy who walked away from his homeland at age 20. He's made tougher transitions. Personally, I think he now views himself as a New York- or L.A.-type celebrity, and no Detroit offer would have satiated that.
But it's not my job to know that. It's the Wings'. And had they known,
had they really gotten into his head, they might have decided the time
to say good-bye was when they still could have gotten a star in return,
instead of watching Sergei vanish in their rearview mirror.