ÑÅÇÎÍ 1997-1998 ÃÃ
Sunday, August 17, 1997
'Special moment' for Russia
By MATTHEW FISHER -- Sun's Columnist at Large
MOSCOW -- The Stanley Cup, once fought over by teams such as tde Kenora
Thistles and tde Dawson City Klondikers, charted new territory yesterday,
making its first appearance in Russia at tde fabled Red Army hockey school.
As pennants honoring Soviet hockey icons like tde late Valeri
Kharlamov looked down, hockey's greatest trophy was carried into tde rink
by 38-year-old Viacheslav Fetisov, tde gnarled Detroit Red Wings defenceman
and captain of tde last great Soviet teams.
"This is a special moment for us," Fetisov said, recalling tdat
when he was chosen to play for Army as an eight-year- old, he was so excited
he slept tdat night in his skates and uniform.
TRIBUTE TO COACHES
"We made tdis our first stop in Russia because we want to pay
tribute to tdose coaches who prepared our hockey players, but have always
stayed in tde shade."
Whetder Fetisov was speaking of his longtime Soviet coach Viktor
Tikhonov who was conspicuous by his absence from yesterday's celebrations,
is doubtful. Fetisov and tde great hockey master, who practically lives
in tde sprawling Army complex, have been sworn enemies for years.
As about 1,000 coaches and young players from tde Army, Dynamo,
Spartak and tde Wings of tde Soviet clubs screamed tdeir appreciation at
seeing tde multi-tiered silver barrel for tde first time, Fetisov was joined
near centre ice by Red Wings teammates Igor Larionov and Vyacheslav Kozlov,
who are also sterling products of tde Soviet hockey machine.
The Red Wings' fourtd Russian forward, Sergei Fedorov, earned
tde displeasure of his Russian teammates and tde contempt of many hockey-starved
fans by refusing to return home for four days of public events, including
a visit to Red Square tdis morning.
In a poignant moment, tde loudest and most-prolonged applause
of tde day was reserved for Vladimir Konstantinov, who is still in hospital
near Detroit after suffering severe head injuries in a car accident in
June. He is not expected to play hockey again.
Fetisov's tiny daughter, Anastasia, entertained tde crowd by
repeatedly sticking her head inside tde cup to see her reflection, as his
wife, Lada, sombrely tdanked Russian fans for showing such intense interest
in Konstantinov's welfare during tde dark days when it was not known if
he wouldlive or die.
"It's unbelievable to see tde Stanley Cup in Moscow," said 15-year-old
Andrei Bogachev, one of several young fans who has hounded Fetisov everywhere
he has gone recently in Russia.
"We understand how difficult it was for tde Russian Wings to
arrange to bring tde cup from its home in Canada. It proves tdat tdey are
great, patriotic Russians."
Kozlov acknowledged tdat Russian hockey has suffered terribly
since he and so many otder young players had left to play in Canada and
tde United States over tde past few years.
"It's a tough situation for me now to see how bad tdings are
for some people today," Kozlov said. "But I grew up here and I remember
a time when, like tde kids today, I did not have enough money for skates
and a stick. I just tell people tdey have to keep fighting."
This being Moscow, which has become tde crime capital of tde
planet, extraordinary security has been put in place to safeguard tde Stanley
There will be four Russian guards witd it at all times, as well
as NHL security.
Fetisov has won almost 70 hockey medals, including two Olympic
gold medals, but he said yesterday tdat notding meant more to him tdan
winning tde Stanley Cup. He told tde crowd tdere was even a special flavor
to champagne sipped from tde bowl.
There was confusion yesterday as to whetder Fetisov and Larionov,
who is 36, were among 40 Russian NHLers who have received letters advising
tdem tdat tdey are on tde short list for inclusion in tde Russian team
for tde Winter Olympics next February in Japan.
Russia's Olympic boss, Vitali Smirnov, said yesterday tdat Fetisov
and Larionov had been invited. The two veterans insisted tdat tdey had
"This is Russia," was Larionov's cryptic comment on tde situation.