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Fedorov: Russian born, Michigan made

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Sergei Fedorov waves to the Joe Louis Arena before Tuesday's game against the Washington Capitals. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Before he received a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd at Tuesday’s Red Wings-Capitals game, Sergei Fedorov met with approximately 20 members of the media inside the Alumni Room at Joe Louis Arena.

The 45-year-old Fedorov, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday with his former roommate Nicklas Lidstrom, talked about a range of topics, including his accomplishments with the Wings, his job in Moscow, and his thoughts on whether or not he thinks his No. 91 will ever be raised to the rafters in Detroit.

Here’s what Fedorov said during part of his 18-plus minutes with the media:

How does it feels to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

“It hasn’t really sunk all the way but we had a great 3-4 days in Toronto, a lot of activities, enormous excitement being built before last night. It’s such an honor, unexpected really, when I received the phone call. I’m sure you heard the funny story, (inaudible) bailing me out as usual again. I guess hockey is a team sport and always will be. Individual effort … team effort really gets you where you want to be. Like I said in my speech, without my teammates, my coaches, my partners, friends, colleagues, I don’t think so I would be accepted in Hall of Fame.”

What’s it feel like to be back in Detroit?

“Like a nervous, train wreck coming up. Little bit excitement, little bit tired because I didn’t really sleep last night. I traveled this morning to Detroit area. Just good exciting feeling just to see, feel once again this atmosphere at Joe Louis Arena and be part of the game that I love and see familiar faces on the ice. It’s really cool.”

Does it really feel like it’s been quarter century since you arrived in Detroit?

“Not really. Time flew by when you’re busy every day doing what you love, time went by quick. It really did. I remember when I was 20, July 1990, best summer probably in Detroit weather-wise. I was arriving here and here I am under different circumstances.”

You mentioned the Ilitches in your induction speech, was it kind of about restoring relations with owner and team?

“I don’t think so in anyway or by any means not there. Just small token of appreciation that they believe in me, they drafted me, they accepted me and they gave me opportunity to play, and like I said, I had best years of my life here.”

What are you most prove of about your career?

“I think those five years that we couldn’t get the Cup. We stuck together because our management leading by Ken Holland and ownership gave us a chance again and again to stay as a group, and there weren’t a lot of changes. That kind of patience from our management group, I think, was crucial in my understanding and I’m proud of the guys and the team and that we finally got it done and not once, but twice. It was not easy to do, everybody remembers the New Jersey series when we really did not how that was positive, how we not winning even one game in the Stanley Cup finals. So I guess you have to fall down nine times and get up 10 in order to achieve your goals and where our organization wanted to be.”

Alex Ovechkin will break your record, maybe tonight, what do you think about that?

Pretty good story to talk to you guys about. I think records are made to be broken. Ovie was a (inaudible) fan of mine, I catched a photo while he was playing Toronto Maple Leafs when he was five, seven or nine years old with my jersey on, and he never told me that story. So he’s gonna get some grief from me about that because in Washington days we shared a lot of moments together in a short period of time we were together there. To me, it’s a matter of time. He’s a great player, especially a great goal scorer. He’s really strong on the puck. Will be really happy for me because I’m out of game anyway, otherwise I would be struggling to say what I’m about to say because I have to play against him tonight. But that’s not the case, so I wish him the best of luck, but hopefully the Wings will prevail, and not to give him that opportunity.”

What is your life like now?

“Very intense 10-11 months out of the year managing a hockey club in Moscow, the famous one from Soviet Union days. It’s called CSKA or Red Army. A lot of work there and 300 kids, 12 coaches, that’s a hockey school. Then junior team, VHL team that’s step behind KHL team. It’s all mine. I’m managing.”

How often do you get to Detroit?

“I’m lucky in some way, blessed with opportunities, so I do business and pleasure all together, 3-4 times a year now. Almost like a regular here now. But usually in the summertime I visit.”

Do you still own a house here?

“Never moved anywhere. Just committed to work.”

Do you still receive a warm welcome everywhere you go?

“That’s still the case, even though we had some misunderstandings before. People were really nice.”

What would it mean to see your number in the rafters in Detroit?

“I don’t want to put any pressure. It’s going to be a great honor if it happens. If it’s not it’s still to be a part of it for 13 seasons here, three Cups and celebrations, rallies, one million rallies, victory rallies, what else can you wish for? I mean, it’s very fortunate that we’ve got that kind of stretch and we were excited about and still talk about still to the day with the guys that I see around. Most of the guys from around those days are now in management with the Red Wings and I’m so proud of that.”

What will it mean to get a warm reception from the fans tonight?

“It’s going to be unbelievable, it’s gonna be most exciting probably moment. One of those moments where you really have chills and goose bumps.”

Will those be the most exiting moment of your week?

“Well, last time were exciting, I would say in a good way, a tough night. But here is different and will be exciting for me and I hope for the fans to spend a little bit of time together and cheer each other up. Like I said, those guys stuck with us, they were patent with us, they drove us through the tough year, just like I said, before we won the first Cup. I think we will owe each other applause.”

Do you think somewhere down the road your number will be retired?

“I don’t know. Maybe. Possibly. But like I said I got to be careful what I’m saying. Like I said if it happens great, when it happens I don’t know and it’s going to be one of those moments that you’re going to cherish the rest of your life.”

What was playing in Washington with Ovechkin like?

“It was intense season right off the trade. We had to win 10 or 11 games out of 12 or 13 to make the playoffs and we did that. That’s what really bonded that team together. I don’t know how we did in the playoffs, but that was fun times. It was a young team, young Alex, young Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, all those guys were good, talented players. To have a mix of the older players usually you have to give them a chance to shine and be on their feet and play well. Now we see that. They leading players and they’re doing quite well.”

Sergei Fedorov talks with his countryman and former Red Wings teammate, Pavel Datsyuk, before Tuesday's game at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

Because you were drafted with Nick Lidstrom, is it more special to share Hall-of-Fame weekend with him?

"Not only drafted, I guess. Like we joked about, we spent so much time together as roommates and as power play buddies, defensive zone buddies. We played extensive amount of time on the ice and off the ice. After my speech when I sat down, he turned to me and said, 'Sergei, you didn't look nervous at all.' That was pretty good. We still feel each other. Actually we finally exchanged numbers so we're going to stay in contact. Just an amazing feeling that we grew up together, in hockey and all of those situations that we went through playing for the Red Wings."

Have you had a chance to reflect on all that you accomplished in your career?

"I want to retire someday and really rewind all of that. When I finish in Russia, playing, two months later I was the GM of the hockey club so no time there. Now it's still racing. You really want to sit down and have a quiet year probably and think about, talk about, see the people you've done those kind of things, you win championships, just to be one of the alumni guys and just be part of alumni action. Then it's probably going to be a lot of fun. I'm sure I would feel even better about what we accomplished here."

Was it scary when you defected?

“Scared is probably a heavy word. You're just 20 years old and you had your grain of salt for four years of really hard workouts, living away from family, living in a sports base facilities all the time. So you saw dreams do come true. You're not really scared, you're just excited about coming to Detroit, coming to NHL and trying on an NHL jersey. I guess what I'm trying to say you're not as experienced as when you're 30 or 35, you're more settled at that age. When you're 20 you just basically have fun and try and follow your dreams, no matter what it's going to cost you or your family. Thank God nothing happened to my family so I don't regret anything that happened back then."

What do you think about Ovechkin saying you were best player he played with?

“It's coming from Alex. Simply say he's a winger, I'm a center. He's a goal scorer, I'm a delivery man sort of thing. Besides that, simple affiliated on ice, off ice also. … Sometimes we disagree on some things. We have a good friendship. As he grows older, because I stopped aging after I finished playing, he realized everything I said was pretty much true so he can use that to his advantage in his life on the ice and off the ice. Obviously Alex will go beyond probably 600 goals, maybe even 700 goals. Coming from him, he's already a great player himself. So I guess he finally understands and realizes what greatness is."

Can you talk about your friendship with Sergei (Chica) Tchekmarev, and being with him the night you defected?

“Chica was a very big guy back then. He's still tall but not as stocky. I thought he was going to grab me and take me to the coaches' room but thank God it didn't happen. But those kind of thoughts raced through my mind, and I knew he might get in trouble. We didn't really think lots about it. We care about each other to this day, we're friends and I don't feel leaving behind comfortably. So he means a lot because he knows me since 15 years old, since Red Army days. But I'm glad everything worked out, everything sort of very positive. He's still the same Chica we know from a long time ago. He's a great friend."

Did you get a chance to talk to the Ilitches about misunderstandings?

“No, I did not to answer your question. I think the misunderstandings were business moves or business decisions, right or wrong. Everybody make what they wanted to make but they always, even though we were maybe not on good terms for some reason, even though I didn't feel that way at all, not one moment. I always welcome any occasions to say hello or meet up with them 'til this day.”

If you could go back in time would you have remained a Red Wings for your entire career?

“Like I said, it's not that simple an answer. Of course I've said numerous times, I would like to be a Red Wing for the rest of my career. For some reason you've got advisors. I'm going to blame the agents, what they advised.”

DetroitRedWings.com Dana Wakiji helped compile this report.

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