When he played 14 minutes, 54 seconds of the Washington Capitals’ loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday, Sergei Fedorov began his 15th postseason since coming to the NHL in 1990. The 39-year-old Russian is the only Stanley Cup winner in the Capitals’ locker room.
In the late 1980s, Fedorov played on a line with future NHL stars Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny. The trio has combined to score 1,393 goals.
Fedorov’s take: “Those guys were amazing. Unbelievable hockey players. We had the whole makeup - speed, hands, whatever. Times were changing and nobody was really paying attention to the hockey, so we had to leave and find our own destiny. Alex was the first one to come here, and he did a lot for us because he scored a lot of goals and was an unbelievable sniper in Buffalo.”
Detroit selected Fedorov with its fourth-round choice (74th overall) in the draft.
Fedorov’s take: “I had no idea what the draft was or what it meant to be drafted by a club. We were so secluded. I got a letter from the vice president of the Detroit Red Wings - Jim Lites - and it said they would like to see me in a Red Wings uniform one day. Somehow, I got it translated with the help of my close friends.”
Fedorov went straight from CSKA Moscow to the Red Wings, posting 31 goals and 79 points in his rookie season. He defected when his team was playing an exhibition game in Portland, Ore., before the Goodwill Games.
Fedorov’s take: “Right after the game, I had to go. Time was up. When you’re 20, you’re excited more than it’s nerve-racking. They really took care of me. Three weeks later, I had a Corvette. It was a dream come true. I exchanged my Russian license for a Michigan one - it was a lot easier back then - and the $100,000 signing bonus was pretty good, too. I thought, ‘I’m rich.’ … They gave me [No.] 91. I didn’t know that was supposed to be a junior or minor player. I took it because [Mogilny] took 89 because that was the year he defected and my year was 90 but I didn’t like 0. Everybody tried to compare me to Stevie [Yzerman] because he was 19.”
The Red Wings ended their 42-year Stanley Cup drought, sweeping Philadelphia for the title. Fedorov scored 20 points in 20 playoff games. They also won Cups in 1998 and 2002.
Fedorov’s take: “The first Cup was certainly the most difficult one. It was kind of nerve-racking. The second Cup, we had pretty much the same team, and then we really got tired during the third, fourth and fifth years and then won in 2002. We had to recharge our batteries for that third Cup.”
Fedorov missed a large portion of the 1997-98 season in a contract holdout. He signed an offer sheet with Carolina that the Red Wings matched. When they won the Cup, Fedorov’s salary jumped to $28 million.
Fedorov’s take: “I thought I would be going to Carolina. I really didn’t talk to management or any of the guys about it. I didn’t know what to think, what to believe, and nobody reached out to me and explained that maybe I should talk to my teammates. I regret that part, but I felt right back with the team, and we buried hatchets right away. I know the [salary] number is huge, but I felt the same: Go to the rink, put the skates on, zip around and deliver.”
Fedorov departed Detroit for a five-year, $40 million contract with Anaheim. He lasted 85 games with the Mighty Ducks before they dealt him to Columbus. He missed the playoffs from 2003-04 to 2006-07.
Fedorov’s take: “I felt pretty decent in Columbus because working with [coach] Ken Hitchcock every day, I had to be ready for practices and games. … The summers were too long without the playoffs.”
A trade-deadline acquisition by the Capitals, Fedorov returned to the playoffs and scored five points in a seven-game loss to Philadelphia.
Fedorov’s take: “I was a little rusty, I have to say. The mental pressure and readiness was rusty. I was not in the situation for a while, and I relaxed. The juices really got flowing when I got here, and then I got nervous trying to anticipate what was ahead of me in the playoffs. But I felt good.”
This year, injuries and illness limited Fedorov to 52 regular-season games - he scored 33 points - but he has witnessed a hockey revival in the District.
Fedorov’s take: “Certainly, I’d like to say it’s a little bit like it was in the Detroit days, when we started making good [runs and reached] the conference finals. … Teams have to put good runs of seven or eight of 10 games and then have the work ethic. If you have big goals in the playoffs, we should play every shift like it’s a playoff game and test absolutely every part of our game.”