If Steve Yzerman is the heart and soul of the Detroit Red Wings, then Sergei Fedorov is the blood that pumps life into the team. He can electrify a crowd with an end-to-end rush, or defend a lead with his tenacious checking skills.
"He's a gamebreaker," Detroit center Kris Draper said of Fedorov. The Red Wings record book is filled with marks etched by Fedorov. He established a team record for game-winning goals with 11 in 1995-96 and shares the club standard for points in a period, garnering four in one frame January 21, 1992 against Philadelphia. He led all scorers during the 1995 Stanley Cup playoffs with a Detroit-record 24 points.
Only Gordie Howe, Yzerman and Alex Delvecchio have accumulated more points in a Detroit uniform than the 803 produced by Fedorov.
Some nights, Fedorov has picked the Wings up and carried them on his back. He scored all four Detroit goals February 12, 1995 in a 4-4 tie with Los Angeles and netted five goals December 26, 1996 in a 5-4 victory over Washington.
The Wings experimented briefly with Fedorov on defense during the 1995-96 season and again during the 1996-97 playoffs. "I'm convinced if we left him there, he'd have won a Norris Trophy," Wings senior vice-president Jimmy Devellano said.
Fedorov came to the Wings in intriguing fashion, walking away from the Russian national team during the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle. Fedorov informed the Wings he was ready to defect and told them to meet him in the lobby of the team hotel after a game. With Wings vice-president Jim Lites waiting calmly in the hotel lobby, Fedorov, the last player off the team bus, walked up to him and said, "Hi Jim, it's time to go."
Seven years later, he walked away from Detroit in a contract holdout, but when the Carolina Hurricanes presented Fedorov with a six-year, $28-million offer sheet in February of 1998, Wings owner Mike Ilitch didn't hesitate to match, even though it meant paying Fedorov a $12 million bonus if Detroit reached the conference finals.
The Wings went all the way that spring, defending their Stanley Cup title and Fedorov played a key role, matching a club playoff mark with 10 goals. One of those, a spectacular, highlight-reel tally in Game 3 of the finals against Washington, gave Detroit a 2-1 win.
Fedorov beat Capitals defenseman Calle Johansson with an inside-out fake, then rifled a shot past goalie Olaf Kolzig.
"He turned nothing into a game-winning goal," Draper said. The victory came on the one-year anniversary of the limousine crash which left Wings defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov with brain injuries. "I will take the puck and give it to them, in memory of what they meant to the team," Fedorov said.
Fedorov can be an enigmatic player, but there's no doubt that without him, the Stanley Cup might never have come to town.
Pskov, Russia, December 13, 1969
Selected 74th overall in the June 17, 1989 NHL entry draft
BEST SEASON WITH RED WINGS:
TOTALS WITH RED WINGS:
GP-747, G-333, A-470, PTS-803
Won Hart Trophy, 1993-94; Won Selke Trophy, 1993-94, 1995-96; Won Lester B. Pearson Award, 1993-94; Selected to NHL First All-Star Team, 1993-94; Selected to NHL All-Rookie Team, 1990-91; Played in three NHL All-Star Games; Played for Russia, 1991 Canada Cup, 1996 World Cup, 1998 Olympics