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Red Wings executive took gamble drafting Fedorov

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- When you have a team full of future Hall of Famers, winning is expected.

On the day when two former members of the Detroit Red Wings, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and center Sergei Fedorov, were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Jim Devellano reminisced about the 2001-02 season. Detroit won its third of four Stanley Cups between 1997 and 2008.

"For [general manager] Ken Holland and myself, we were very nervous," Devellano, the Senior Vice President of the Red Wings said. "If we didn't win with that team. …holy cow! I mean we had Brett Hull, Dominik Hasek, Luc Robitaille, Igor Larionov, [Steve] Yzerman, Fedorov, Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan and Scotty Bowman. What a crew."

Devallano, who has spent more than 30 years with the Red Wings, said the most memorable thing about Fedorov was getting him to defect from the Soviet Union.

"We proved all those people who laughed at us when we drafted him in 1989 wrong," Devellano said. "They said, 'Geez, what a waste of a draft choice.' The Iron Curtain was up and you couldn't get them then. Here we had him on our soil and now we had Steve Yzerman and Fedorov in the middle and were going to really go places with those two."

Fedorov was in the United States with his team to play against American competition. Following a game, Fedorov was the last player to leave the bus at the team's hotel, a Holiday Inn. He walked over to a man reading a newspaper, Jim Lites of the Red Wings, and followed Lites to a limousine where another Red Wings employee, Nick Polano was waiting inside. They drove to the airport and flew to Detroit in owner Mike Ilitch's private jet.

"Fedorov was a great player for [13] years with the Red Wings," Devellano said. "I'm sorry he left us so soon. I would have liked him to play 20 years with us, but it wasn't our choice."

As for Lidstrom, Devellano said the defenseman was not low maintenance; he was no maintenance.

"It's a funny thing," Devellano said. "I have no really funny or exciting stories about Nick. The only thing can tell you that he was with us for two decades, 20 years, and I don't think he came up to see me with a problem more than two times during that entire span. That's Lidstrom."

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