DETROIT – The most decorated defenseman in Russian hockey history is excited to return to Detroit for the first time in more than a decade.
Viacheslav Fetisov will join a cavalcade of Red Wings’ greats that will play in the Alumni Showdown as part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica Park next month.
“I played 22 years and one of the most successful hockey players and I’m a Russian senator right now and I am always going to remember for the 4 ½ seasons in Detroit for one reason, we played for the Hockeytown,” said Fetisov in an exclusive phone interview with DetroitRedWings.com. “So I remember people who love the game, who understand the game, who appreciate the players and were patient enough to wait for 40-plus years to give them the Stanley Cup in Detroit.
“I’ll never forget the moment when we sweep Philadelphia in the four games. I was the happiest man and I was always remember Stevie Yzerman when he got the Cup and passed to me it was a great right to carry in the Joe Louis and I will never forget this night. It was a memorable part of my life.”
Fetisov was the fourth piece of a Russian hockey revolution in Detroit. He arrived late in the 1994-95 season and helped the Red Wings reach the Stanley Cup finals where they lost in four straight games to the New Jersey Devils.
The following year, the Red Wings acquired veteran center Igor Larionov, rounding out the Russian Five along with younger stars Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov and Viacheslav Kozlov, who grew up under the Soviet hockey umbrella.
Four of the former NHL stars will play against the Toronto Maple Leafs alumni in a pair of exhibition games slated for New Year’s Eve in downtown Detroit. Though Konstantinov, who still lives in metro Detroit, can play, he will participate in the event.
The first all-Russian five-man unit in NHL history dazzled opponents with their skill and skating ability and became the Red Wings personality for the rest of the 90s. But with the great pleasure of winning the first Cup in 42 years, came tremendous pain. Six days after celebrating the Cup victory tragedy struck when Konstantinov and masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov were critically injured in a one-vehicle limousine accident. Fetisov was also in the limousine but his injuries weren't nearly as serious and he returned to play the following season. But Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov both saw the end of their careers.
“Yeah I got some good and bad memories about Detroit and especially ones when we got in the car accident,” Fetisov said. “I never forget this and I appreciate how the people of Detroit supported me, how they supported Vladimir and Sergei Mnatsakanov. I never forget the people of Detroit how they build up the tents and spend a few days around the hospital just to support Vladimir, Sergei and myself and pray for us. This stuff you never forget and there will be enough appreciation. I tried to express in the press how much I appreciate and how much I respect the good people in Detroit.”
While he sees Larionov on occasion, Fetisov said he still maintains a long-distance friendship with the other Russian Wings, and he’s looking forward to their reunion in December.
“I spoke to Igor last week, he was in Moscow,” Fetisov said. “But I have relationship with others, the same relationship as any hockey player in the world. I got nothing against anybody and everybody got respect for me and I respect everybody who plays this game.”
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