Best skater: Sergei Fedorov

Sergei Fedorov has plenty of abilities that few other players do, but his skating skill is what sets him apart.

Originally Published: December 29, 2003
By Dan Wood | The Hockey News

The Hockey News solicited votes from 42 journalists to come up with "The Best of Everything in Hockey." One correspondent from each NHL city and 12 national media members were asked to vote on various disciplines for active players and executives. In addition, they cast ballots on NHL franchise-related off-ice departments. Five points were awarded for first-place votes, three for second and one for third. The accompanying story and voting results is one of more than 40 areas featured. The complete results can be found in "The Best of Everything in Hockey" magazine. Also featured in the publication are all-time bests from each of the 30 organizations and a fan vote on the top 10 favorite players from each franchise.

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Best Skater
Player, Team Votes
1. Sergei Fedorov, Ana 111
2. S. Niedermayer, NJ 66
3. Mike Modano, Dal 58
4. Marian Gaborik, Min 31
5. A. Mogilny, Tor 23
6. Pavel Bure, NYR 19
7. Paul Kariya, Col 10
8. Martin St-Louis, TB 9
9. Teemu Selanne, Col 8
10. Todd Marchant, Clb 8

Everyone who has watched in awe as new Mighty Ducks of Anaheim center Sergei Fedorov dominated an NHL game with his extraordinary speed and cunning can only imagine the hours he spent working to become the best skater in the game today.

They don't know the half of it.

As a child in the former Soviet Union in the 1970s, Fedorov had the stamina to "skate maybe four, five hours a day, easily." And though he didn't realize it at the time, his off-ice training was pretty intense, too.

"My father made me jump steps," Fedorov said. "We lived on the fifth floor, so one at a time, I had to jump, almost every time I was going up. "It wasn't like work. It was fun. I did not mind doing it."

Little did a then-young Fedorov know, but those early exercises helped earn the speedy Russian become the league's best skater in a 'Best of Everything' poll conducted by The Hockey News.

It wasn't until Fedorov was 13, however, that the roots for his becoming the NHL's top skater began to take hold. He moved to Minsk, in what is now Belarus, and began not only playing for an elite-level hockey team on weekends, but also practising against older players every morning.

"I would play all kinds of different positions because my coach told me I had to work on speed while I was younger," Fedorov said. "So from age 13 to probably 15, for two or three years, I was trying to do that."

After playing one season, 1985-86, with Dynamo Minsk, Fedorov moved on to the legendary Central Red Army team in Moscow, where he was tutored not only by coaches, but also some of the greatest players the Soviet Union ever produced.

"I think the pre-season camps with Dynamo Minsk and four years in Red Army pre-season camps gave me that power to be able to skate long and fast," Fedorov said. "There were so many drills off the ice and on the ice. It was just beyond belief. I don't think right now, anybody in the world can match that, the way it was set up for us during the Viktor Tikhonov-era.

"With the way our routine and our workouts were set up, there was constant practising. We would skate a lot."

The Detroit Red Wings, who spent a fourth round pick in the 1989 NHL entry draft on Fedorov, received a tremendous return on that investment.

Before joining the Ducks as a free agent in July, Fedorov played 13 seasons with the Red Wings, winning a Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player, two Selke Trophies as the league's top defensive forward and contributing greatly to Stanley Cup championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002.

Anaheim GM Bryan Murray, the coach-GM in Detroit when Fedorov entered the NHL in 1990, didn't take long to recognize that his nearly unparalleled skating ability made him a superstar in waiting.

"He can stop on a dime," Murray said. "He pivots. He turns. He can stop and go. That's why his game has been so outstanding overall. Not only is he fast up and down, but he has all those little quick things in tight quarters."

If Fedorov has lost anything at 33 -- speed or otherwise -- it isn't readily apparent. Intense lower-body workouts the past couple of years, he said, have him feeling like he did when he first came to North America.

Thirteen years after seeing him as an NHL rookie in the 1990-91 season, Murray found himself marveling at Fedorov once again, on the second day of Ducks training camp in September.

"He pivoted off a guy, put the puck through his feet and got open, out of a crowd," Murray said. "Normal players can't do that."

Fedorov has plenty of abilities that few other players do, nearly all of which can be traced to his remarkable skating skill.

"It is a plus," said the two-time winning fastest skater at the NHL's All-Star Weekend. "It's a bonus to my game. It gave me a chance to step up to the level where I can play hockey now.

"A lot of players can skate, but to be able to combine your skating with the way you handle the puck, the way you shoot, the way you make plays, the way you score, it's a big deal to me. So in a sense, I am proud that people recognize my skating. It's a big honor, but at the same time, I like to be known for being a good hockey player."

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