DETROIT – It’s rare for the general manager of a pro hockey team to join his players on the ice for practice.
But Sergei Fedorov isn’t above going the extra distance to help develop young players.
According to Red Wings defenseman Alexey Marchenko, that’s exactly what Fedorov, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, does on occasion as manager of CSKA Moscow.
“(He) talked to you a lot,” said Marchenko, who played for CSKA from 2009-13. “He told you small things, what to do on the ice. He knows everything about hockey so it was really great. … Once in a week he was out, helped most of the forwards.”
Fedorov will be honored during a pre-game ceremonial before the Red Wings host the Washington Capitals tonight at Joe Louis Arena. The Russian superstar played for both franchises, though most of his career success came in Detroit, where he helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup three times.
Last Friday, the Red Wings players and coaches were happy to have front-row seats when this year’s Hall-of-Fame inductees – including Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom – were introduced prior to their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
“It was a great moment for sure,” Marchenko said. “It was really a good honor to be on the ice when these guys get to the Hall of Fame.”
Tonight will be another special pre-game.
Marchenko said it was a thrill to be part of a team led by Fedorov, one of several Russian-born NHL stars that the Wings’ defenseman grew up admiring.
“All the Red Wings were really big in our country because of the Russian guys,” he said, “so like most of the guys cheered for the Red Wings. It was really big for us.”
Alex Ovechkin is on the apex on breaking Fedorov’s scoring record for Russian-born players in the NHL. The former Capitals teammates are currently tied at 483 career goals.
“Obviously it’s going to a special moment if it’s going to happen, but you never know when’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen,” Ovechkin said. “For him it’s a huge moment right now. He’s just going to enjoy the game and if it happens, probably he’s not going to be happy.”
Like the 23-year-old Marchenko – and so many other Russians – Ovechkin continues to admire Fedorov, not only for his career accomplishments, but for what he has done to open NHL doors for the next generation of Russian-born players.
“You have a dream just to meet those kind of guys,” Ovechkin said. “To have a chance to play with him on the same line on same team, he was the best teammate I had and the best player I played with.
“He was an all-around player. It doesn’t matter what position, he will be top guy out there. You could see his work ethic and intensity was high.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov is another 23-year-old, who watched Fedorov’s career on highlight tapes during a time when NHL games weren’t televised in Russia. But the Capitals’ center also got the opportunity to play along side Fedorov in a KHL all-star game in 2012.
“We played on the same line so we would go out before like a team dinner,” Kutnetsov said. “He talked to me a little bit, and I remember a couple of words but this is words just between me and him.”
The all-star game is definitely among Kuznetsov’s career high-points. Being at The Joe, the home of the Russian 5 and getting the chance to see Wings’ fans cheer Fedorov, will be another extraordinary occasion.
But for Kuznetsov, there’s one thing that can top tonight’s pre-game ceremony.
“It’s a special moment for me too to see him,” he said. “Even just take a picture after the game is good memories. My mom and my wife love to put the pictures in the house so that’s for my family.”