Detroit Red Wings Editorials: Please retire #91, Mr. Illitch


Fans of any professional sports team tend to be some of the most crazed, loyal, and passionate people on the planet. That type of life-long relationship is forged through years of devotion, and built on a foundation of memories and moments, some good, some bad.

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And for every die-hard fan, there is always that one player/persona who helped ignite the spark for his or her favorite team.

For a lot of Detroit Red Wings fans, Steve Yzerman was their first (and well deserved) hero, but for me, my first favorite Red Wing was another player who also had the numbers “1” and “9” stitched on his jersey. It was number “91”, Sergei Fedorov.

It almost seems daunting and unfair to try to capture Sergei Fedorov’s time spent with the Detroit Red Wings in just one single blog post. Fedorov was such a huge part of an amazing Detroit Red Wings hockey team that was able to achieve an extraordinary amount of success. To put things in a simple perspective, here’s a list of some of Sergei’s personal achievements.

  • Hart Memorial Trophy Winner (MVP) – 1994
  • Frank J. Selke Trophy Winner – 1994, 1996
  • Most Career Overtime Points – 27
  • First European-trained player to win the NHL MVP
  • First Russian player to achieve 1,000 points in the NHL
  • Most goals by a Russian-born NHL players – 483
  • 3 time Stanley Cup champion – 1997, 1998, 2002

Not too shabby for a fourth-round draft pick is it? It wasn’t just Fedorov’s statistics that made him great, it was what he did out on the ice while laced up in his Nike skates, that was the real treat. Sergei was fast, and he was dominant. Watching #91 carry the puck into the offensive-zone like a Russian fighter jet was a thing of beauty, and his speed was almost as deadly as his shot.

One of Fedorov’s most memorable games occurred on December 26th, 1996, when he scored 5 goals against the Washington Capitals to help the Red Wings pull off a thrilling overtime victory. The final score of the game was 5-4. I’ll let you do the math on that one.

Despite being an offensive-powerhouse that could carry the entire team on his back if needed, Sergei was a great two-way/defensive player. During both the 1995-1996 season, as well as the 1996-1997 playoffs, the Red Wings briefly experimented with Fedorov on the blue-line. Jimmy Devellano summed up the experiment by saying, “I’m convinced if we left him there, he’d have won a Norris Trophy.”

Sergei spent 13 magical seasons in Detroit, in those 13 seasons he was able to tally 400 regular-season goals, 50 playoff goals, and set the franchise record for game-winning goals. Again, to put things in perspective, only Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, and Alex Delvecchio have accumulated more points in a Red Wings’ uniform than Fedorov.

Speaking of Steve Yzerman, he once described Fedorov with this flattering quote:

"“I’ve only seen two other players that can dominate a game like Sergei, and that’s Wayne and Mario… in my opinion, he’s the best player in the League. He is different than Wayne and Mario because he dominates with his speed, and unbelievable one-on-one moves.”"

And hey, while we are at it, here’s what Wayne Gretzky had to say about playing against Sergei:

"“I have never seen a player dominate the game the way Sergei did.”"

If Fedorov had chosen to finish his career in Detroit as a Red Wing (I still don’t want to talk about it), I believe there would be no debate today about whether or not to retire/hang #91 in the rafters among the other Detroit hockey legends. Personally, I believe it should be up there.

Sergei Fedorov and the rest of the Russian Five (ahhh the Russian Five) were hugely influential and inspirational to countless hockey fans, including myself. They helped to bring the Stanley Cup back to Detroit while simultaneously restoring the Motor City back to “Hockeytown”. Players of Sergei Fedorov’s skill don’t come around often, and I consider myself lucky to have the memories of him as one of the all-time great Detroit Red Wings.

We will see you in the Hockey Hall of Fame #91, and hopefully in the rafters were you belong.

Next: Detroit Red Wings History: The Best Of Nick Lidstrom

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