Q&A with Sergei Fedorov
From Hockeytown all the way to Southern California, Sergei Fedorov has left an indelible mark wherever he has played.
The 35-year-old center is a former MVP, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and one of the most decorated Russian-born players to skate in the NHL, and he might just be the player who can officially put Columbus on the NHL map.
In this week's edition of Facing Off, we get the inside scoop on Fedorov's life, from the backlash he's received for being Russian to his marriage to Anna Kournikova.
Question from David Amber: How did you find out you had been traded to Columbus?
Answer from Fedorov: [Mighty Ducks general manager] Brian Burke called me and told me I was traded. He gave me [Blue Jackets GM] Doug MacLean's phone number, and after I spoke with Brian, I called Doug. We talked briefly. He was really excited that the trade went through.
Q: You've been in the NHL 15 seasons and this is the first time you were traded. How did you feel when you found out?
A: It was surprising. After a minute, I just went with it and started packing. I felt comfortable going to Columbus because I used to play with head coach Gerard Gallant and I met Doug MacLean the year I came into the league. A trade is a trade, and that's part of the business, you have to deal with it I guess.
Q: What was it like playing in Detroit and being part of a team that revived Hockeytown?
A: At first, it was tough 'cause the expectations were so high. Every year, we were getting closer and closer to the Stanley Cup. It was basically a lot of work off the ice, trying to make sure we were in the best shape possible. In some ways, it was a lot of pain. Every day, we worked out on the stationary bike and with weights, and I remember it was really tough.
Q: Did you like playing for Scotty Bowman?
A: We had a good working relationship. I was much younger so I didn't have time to think about playing for him. He pushed us hard, but everyone wanted the same thing. In the back of everybody's mind was that we better win the Cup.
A: It was easy hockey. We didn't have any trouble communicating on the ice, no matter how fast we played. Hockey was just fun. On that line, I played defensively and would back-check. As soon as we got the puck, I would find either Alex or Pavel with a good pass and the puck would be in the net before I crossed the blue line.
Q: When it comes to being naturally gifted, who has the most talent out of the three?
A: Alex, I think, was the strongest. He has the most agility, the quickest release and the best shot. He was a little bit older and was the leader of our line.
Q: In 1989, Mogilny defected to the United States to play in the NHL. A year later, you followed. Tell us about that.
A: It was 1990 and I was in Portland, Ore., playing in an exhibition game. I had been in contact with the Red Wings for more than a year, so finally I decided it was time for me to try playing in the NHL. I was only 20 when I defected. I didn't know much about life cause all I did was practice hockey all the time. I wasn't scared when I left the Russian team, but I was really excited. Sometimes the less you know, the better. All I could think about was playing in big NHL arenas and that's why I wasn't scared 'cause I didn't know any better.
Q: You are the first Russian to collect 1,000 points in the NHL. What does that accomplishment mean to you?
A: [Laughs] It means I've played a lot of games and spent a lot of minutes on the ice. Obviously, I am doing something right. As you get older, every point is harder to get.
• Scored goal in first NHL game on Oct. 4, 1990 against the N.J. Devils.
• First Russian-born player to collect 1,000 points in the NHL.
• Two-time Olympic medal winner (Silver 1998, Bronze 2002).
• Won three Stanley Cups with Detroit (1997, 1998 and 2002).
• Named to the NHL All-Star team six times.
• Won Hart Trophy, Frank J. Selke Trophy and Lester B. Person award in 1993-94 season.
• Younger brother, Fedor, plays for the New York Rangers.
Q: Considering what you have done in the NHL, do you think you receive more criticism then you deserve? Especially from those critics who say, "Sergei Fedorov, he's not as good as he should be!"
A: [Laughs] They say that? I do my best. At times, I know many people have told me it looks so easy, but you have to realize, I have spent a lot of hours in the gym and working on my game. A long time ago, I stopped reading the papers, even after we won games. After we won the Cup, if we lost in the playoffs the next year, I usually got blamed for it.
Q: Is there any downside to being a pro athlete?
A: Yeah, you mentioned it, answering to your critics. You always hear people say, "Russians don't know what the Stanley Cup is. You don't compete hard. You don't try in the playoffs." People just throw garbage at you just because you are Russian. That's the downside, you get beat up every night. Every Russian player has gone through some tough times because we are from a different country.
Q: Is it difficult to live your life in the public eye?
A: [Laughs] Oh no. Not anymore. I certainly don't live my life in the public eye, at least not for the last three years. I have slowed down in that department. Before it was pretty tough for me.
Q: Could you have a relationship off the ice with someone who is not a celebrity, or is it too tough for noncelebrities to relate to your lifestyle?
A: I think I could now because I'm a little bit older and wiser. But it is easier to date someone who understands how people, the media and critics deal with you. So in some ways, it is easier to date another celebrity.
Q: What's the best thing about the relationship you had with Anna Kournikova?
A: The best thing was that we were both Russian. There was no romance for a long time. She was just a kid when we met the first time [she was 15]. Our families got along. We had a lot in common, we lived similar lives, we understood each other. So our friendship developed 'cause we were in the same position professionally and socially.
Q: How did the relationship with Anna progress to being more than friends?
A: It was a turning point. We spent quite a few days together. Anna expressed that kind of [romantic] interest, I was kind of surprised because I was a little bit older and wilder than her and I was going in a different direction. But I looked at the situation and said she was a great person, so why not? So, then we started dating. It was tough because her schedule had her based all over the world and I played games in so many different cities.
Q: Do you feel people are still misinformed about your marriage to Anna?
A: They shouldn't be. I have said it before, we were married and we are divorced now. We were married for about a year.
Q: What was the marriage like?
A: The same as the normal life we led before. We were both glued to our schedules. It was just a normal thing couples do when they reach a certain stage of their relationship.
Q: When is the last time you spoke with Anna?
A: No comment. I didn't speak with her for a long time. She has a brand new life and she is doing well, so we've moved on.
Q: How did you meet former girlfriend Tara Reid?
A: We met through mutual friends in Los Angeles. We met up again in Miami at the MTV Music Awards. We hung out for a while before we started dating. A lot of people come to Miami to relax and party a little bit.
Q: She is known as the ultimate party girl. Is that a fair reputation?
A: I don't think so. She just got that rep. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time. She has fun, but that's all.
Q: What was your first date with Tara like?
A: [Laughs] I will leave that to us. Some things are personal.
David Amber is an anchor for ESPN and a contributor to ESPN.com.
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