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Fetisov Up for High Post in Russia - New York Times
By JOE LAPOINTE
Slava Fetisov is expected to return to New Jersey today from a visit to Moscow. But he may soon make a return trip to Russia to stay on a more permanent basis. Fetisov, a former hockey star in the Soviet Union and the National Hockey League, has talked with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia about a high-level position in the sports program there.
According to several people in North America who are familiar with Russian hockey and with Fetisov personally, the new job could be roughly equivalent to a ministry role in the Kremlin to oversee many sports, not just hockey. Fetisov was coach and general manager of the Russian hockey team that won a bronze medal at the Salt Lake Winter Olympics in February.
The disappointing performance of that team, and of other Russian athletes in Salt Lake City, has created the momentum for change and improvement in a sports system that has fallen in prestige since the disintegration of the Soviet Union a decade ago. An N.H.L. general manager, a player agent with numerous Russian clients and a close friend of Fetisov's who also works in the N.H.L. all said that Fetisov had visited Russia several times since the Olympics ended on Feb. 24 and had talked with Putin about the new role.
There has been no official announcement from Moscow, and efforts to reach Fetisov by telephone on Tuesday were unsuccessful. Late last month a Moscow radio station reported that Fetisov had received a proposal from Putin to head the Goskomsport, the state sports committee.
Fetisov, 43, is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, the first Russian player so inducted. As a defenseman in the 1980's, he was the captain of the Red Army team and the Soviet national team. As the old Soviet system began to come undone late in that decade, Fetisov led the effort of Soviet players to play professionally in North America. In 1989 he was among the first group to transfer, signing with the Devils. He also played for the Detroit Red Wings when two of their teams won the Stanley Cup, in 1997 and 1998. After Detroit won its first Cup, Fetisov and several Russian teammates on the Red Wings took the Stanley Cup with them on a tour of Red Square.
After retiring in 1998, Fetisov became an assistant coach with the Devils, a position he held until January, when he was reassigned after the dismissal of the team's head coach, Larry Robinson. He was the first Russian-trained coach employed in such a visible and powerful role on a full-time basis in the N.H.L.
Fetisov became head of the Olympic hockey team only after struggles with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, which turned him down for the position in the spring of 2001. But he got the job last summer through the intervention of Putin, a fan of sports, particularly of hockey. During the Olympics, on the day the Russians played the United States in the semifinals, Putin criticized the officiating of the tournament because the International Ice Hockey Federation used referees from the N.H.L. who were from North America.
The Russians lost to the United States, 3-2, and played for the bronze medal two days later, defeating Belarus. On the night before the semifinals, Russian Olympic officials held an angry news conference to complain about officiating, particularly in figure skating. They also threatened to boycott the closing ceremony and the semifinal game, threats that did not materialize.
But the concern over Russian sports involves more than the Olympics. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, what was once a state-controlled system has devolved into many privately run enterprises, not always coordinated with one another. In addition, many sources of talent now represent different nations that were a part of the Soviet Union. The recent 14-team Olympic hockey tournament included Belarus, Latvia and Ukraine. Under the old system, those players would have been part of the Soviet program.
Even Russian junior hockey players, ages 16 to 20, are leaving to train
in North America. It is believed that Fetisov, should he accept the new
position, would work to reverse the migration of talent and attempt to
negotiate larger transfer fees from the N.H.L. to Russian teams. In the
30-team N.H.L., there are about 60 Russian players, with many more in the
minor leagues and junior amateur leagues of North America.
Страничка Вячеслава Фетисова
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