If sports experts were to choose the best hockey players in the world for a specific decade, Sergei Fedorov would have a claim on the title of most versatile player of the 1990s. Equally superb at center or on the wing, and a high scorer with outstanding defensive ability, Fedorov is a pure player who has mastered all facets of the game from A to Z. A gifted stickhandler, he can take on two or three opponents at a time. But if he spots a teammate in a better position, he will pass the puck, whether it's a few feet or halfway down the ice.
He has a powerful shot and a casual style of skating. One day in Detroit Fedorov and his teammate Nicklas Lidstrom were racing down the street on inline skates. Sergei was a few yards ahead of Nicklas, when a bicyclist suddenly darted out of a side alley. It seemed certain that Fedorov was headed for a collision, but he leapt over the bike's hind wheel and resumed skating. He shows just as much finesse on the ice as he does on asphalt, to the delight of his fans.
Fedorov is one of those players who can single-handedly turn the tide in his club's favor, and he frequently sets an example that motivates his teammates when they are in a slump. He has been a consistent performer in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Winter Olympics in Nagano and Salt Lake City and the Spartak Cup tournaments that involve Russian stars of the NHL.
In 1989, Alxander Mogilny was the first Soviet to defect, and he was followed a year later by Fedorov. Pavel Bure entered the NHL in 1991. Mogilny was a friend and roommate of Fedorov's when the two went to Sweden with a Soviet team that won the 1989 World Junior Championships. After the tournament, Mogilny disappeared from the hotel, and turned up in the United States a short time later. The two players shared the same room, so each probably knew the other's intentions, but Fedorov nurtured the hope that he would get to the United States the legal way.
Sergei's military service ended in 1990, and Tikhonov didn't want to lose the gifted player he had pegged as the leader of the Red Army and national teams. Tikhonov applied pressure to Fedorov to file an application to become a commanding officer in the army. He offered Fedorov an apartment in Moscow, and told him that if he refused, he would never play for the national team. Tikhonov's aides also worked to stoke the young player's fears.
Fedorov felt he had no choice but to defect, and he soon got the opportunity when he accompanied the Soviet team to Seattle for the 1990 Goodwill Games. He did not wait long after defecting to sign with the Detroit Red Wings. Whereas Mogilny was a sensitive homebody, who missed friends and family and did not break through in the NHL until his third season with the Buffalo Sabres, the more self-reliant Fedorov felt quite at home in the NHL, scoring 31 goals and making the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1990-91. The third young Russian star, Bure, was fortunate to have Igor Larionov as a teammate and mentor in his rookie season with the Vancouver Canucks. A year later, Larionov had left to play in Switzerland, but Anatoli Semenov became Bure's tutor and he turned in the first of two 60-goal seasons.
Fedorov became a true leader of the Red Wings in 1993-94 when injuries forced Steve Yzerman to miss the second half of the season. Sensing that he was expected to rally his teammates, Fedorov turned on the jets, scoring 56 goals and 120 points. The NHL named him to the First All-Star Team and awarded him the Hart Memorial Trophy, the Frank J. Selke Trophy (again in 1996)and the Lester B. Pearson Trophy
Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman also had a say in player signings and trades, and he used that muscle to acquire Viacheslav Fetisov in April 1995, and Larionov in October of the same year. When Bowman told Fedorov of the Fetisov trade during an airline flight, he was so happy that he jumped out of his seat and nearly broke the paneling with his head. Bowman put together an all-Russian power play that featured Fetisov who got his second wind with Detroit and Konstantinov on defense, with Vyacheslav Kozlov, Larionov and Fedorov on the forward line. Although Fedorov had to move over to right wing to accommodate Larionov, he lost none of his effectiveness. The "Russian Five" played no small role in the team's back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1997 and 1998 with Fedorov himself capturing his third Stanley Cup in 2002.
After a 13-year career in Detroit, Fedorov signed as an unrestricted free-agent with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the summer of 2003 and went on to record his tenth season with 30+ goals. Following a lock-out year in 2004-05, Fedorov was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the early stages of the 2005-06 season in exchange for Tyler Wright and Francois Beauchemin. Over two and a half seasons in Columbus, Fedorov recorded 113 points and became the first Russian-born and trained player to play in 1,000 NHL games. In the 2007-08 season, Fedorov struggled to produce offensively and the Blue Jackets opted to trade the former Red Wing to the Washington Capitals on the NHL trade deadline, February 26, 2008.
In Washington, Fedorov appeared in 18 games led the Capitals back into the playoffs for the first time since 2003. After the Capitals first round playoff exit, he joined teammate Alex Ovechkin and captured gold in the 2008 World Championships.