TORONTO – Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov received their Hall of Fame rings during a special presentation Friday afternoon at the hockey cathedral in downtown Toronto.
While both fielded plenty of questions about their careers, the two Red Wings’ greats made sure to heap praise on another Hall of Famer – former coach Scotty Bowman – who was in attendance.
“When he came to Detroit, we had a good team, but we hadn’t won any championships since the mid-50s,” Lidstrom said. “Having Scotty come and be part of something like that you realize we have a chance to become a great team, and I think Scotty was the reason kind of changed the organization and changed the way we were playing. He was the mastermind behind us winning Stanley Cups, so I have great experiences having Scotty as a coach.”
Fedorov seconded Lidstrom, though the former sniper’s appreciation for the legendary coach runs on more of a personal level.
“I enjoyed working with Scotty Bowman very much,” Fedorov said. “I got a chance to know Scotty. I don’t know if you know but I had a little trouble with my love life and stuff. One moment I really cherished, I really got to know Scotty was when he let me figure out my life and let me off the team for a couple, three days. I really, truly finally figured out who Scotty Bowman was.”
The relationship trouble Fedorov was referring to occurred in the late 90s when he was tied romantically to Anna Kournikova, a former Russian tennis star.
“We let him go to Arizona to see Anna Kournikova because they were pretty serious,” Bowman said. “He wanted a couple of days and we were going to Los Angeles, so I said ‘why don’t you go there first and join the team.’ He could miss a practice or two, I never worried about him, his skating and conditioning.”
Upon rejoining the team, Fedorov said he had a deeper respect for Bowman who had shown him goodwill.
“After that I played even harder,” Fedorov said.
The gesture also helped pave a role change for Fedorov, who accepted a move to defense.
“Sergei always wanted a little more ice time, which I don’t blame him,” Bowman said. “We had so many good centers. We had Steve Yzerman, we had Kris Draper, guys like that. We had some injuries to start, put him back on defense because he could skate backwards. When I first got there he was more defensive as a center than he was offense. His offense came later. He was one of the few European players who was really a terrific defensive player to start. So when we needed a defenseman for about six weeks, I seized the opportunity because he’s not going to be concerned about his ice time, he’s gonna play 25 minutes. So he went back and played at least 25 minutes. … He went back and played defense and he was terrific. He took it upon himself. ”
Lidstrom and Fedorov are the eighth and ninth players off the Red Wings’ 2002 Stanley Cup team that will be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The pair will receive enshrinement during a special ceremony Monday evening.
Lidstrom said he feels certain pride about that team and the organization.
“That ’02 team was a star-studded team, an all-star team that we knew that if we played as a team we could have success,” Lidstrom said. “I think Scotty was the mastermind behind that. He made everyone play as a team, whether you were on the fourth line or you’re supposed to be that player playing the most minutes, he made us play as a team, and Scotty was responsible for that. He made it all work.”
Another source of pride for Lidstrom is that he managed to play his entire career in Detroit.
“I do take a lot of pride in being with one organization,” he said. “I never really wanted to leave Detroit and play anywhere else. I was comfortable there, we had great ownership committed to winning and we had great teams, so I never tested the free market. I never waited until July 1st to sing a contract. I always wanted to stay there and play there. I’m very proud to be representing one team for my whole career.”