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Fetisov is hoping to revive // Record-Herald News
BY MARK CZERWINSKI
Folks north of the border have embraced their Olympic hockey team with an almost religious fervor. They are talking as if Team Canada is going to be the team to beat in February. No one seems that worked up about Team USA, but the Yanks are quietly confident about their chances in Salt Lake City.
The Czech Republic is still scary strong with Dominik Hasek in net, and the Swedes and Finns have their share of talent. But if you're looking for an Olympic darkhorse, the Russian bandwagon is all gassed up and ready to go.
This team, for better or worse, is Slava Fetisov's baby. It's his vision of what Russian hockey can be, and it's going to be a treat to watch that proud and noble man try to get this one-time international juggernaut back on its feet.
"Everybody goes out to play to win hockey games," said Fetisov, the popular Devils' assistant coach who is coach and general manager for Team Russia. "But hockey people in Russia were misleading fans about NHL players. They said they were not patriots anymore, that they don't want to play for their national team.
"That's not true. The indication I got from the few guys who didn't make the team is that they are disappointed on one hand, but ready to join in case something happens to one of the other players."
That list includes gritty Devils winger Sergei Brylin, Buffalo winger Slava Kozlov, Dallas winger Valeri Kamensky, and Calgary defenseman Igor Kravchuk. Only three players, including Toronto's Alexander Mogilny and Dallas' Sergei Zubov, turned him down, and Fetisov said their reasons were "silly excuses."
Fetisov's decision to pass on Brylin was a surprise. Brylin has played well in two Stanley Cup Finals, and earned the nickname "Mr. April" for his knack of stepping up and scoring big goals in the playoffs. He wanted to be on this team, and his skill and heart would've helped.
But the Brylin decision only serves to underscore how agonizing this whole process was for Fetisov. He said he went through plenty of sleepless nights trying to piece together a team that would do more than simply compete for a medal in February.
"Hockey's popularity in Russia is coming back," said Fetisov, who has named 41-year-old Igor Larionov of Detroit as his captain. "The Olympics can only boost us because kids want to see [Sergei] Fedorov, [Pavel] Bure, [Maxim] Afinogenov, and [Ilya] Kovalchuk. They want to idolize them, and that's important.
"They want to see a team that's going to do the job. A team where it's team first and everything else second. Like our [Soviet] team used to be. Like the Devils, and the Red Wings. Willing to pay the price and do everything to make sure the team wins the hockey game."
This is a true labor of love for Fetisov. Russian hockey officials simply wanted him to fax over a list of players, but he insisted on a nationally televised news conference in prime time. He has his own Web site, which he calls the most popular in Russia, dedicated to his team.
The Russian team is scheduled for one practice session at 10 a.m., Feb.
14. If there was a way in that brief time for Fetisov to infuse his heart,
his pride, and his determination in that collection of players, the Russians
would be unbeatable. "I had a hard time picking the roster, but I'll have
an even harder time now getting ready tactically and strategically for
the tournament," Fetisov said. "There's still a lot of work ahead, and
the most important time for this team is from now on."
Страничка Вячеслава Фетисова
на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"