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.

 "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 Cup.
 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 been excluded.
 "This is Russia," was Larionov's cryptic comment on tde situation.