Fedorov: The Cutting Room Floor
Like a lot of people (including Fedorov himself and probably the Caps, too) I figured veteran center Sergei Fedorov was a short-term addition here in the District when he was acquired from Columbus at the Feb. 26 trade deadline. When he showed up at Kettler the following day and held an introductory news conference, I still didn’t think any differently. But I was struck by his presence and his command, and marveled at how much better he was at dealing with the media than in his earlier years. That’s not surprising; most players follow the same curve.
As the days and weeks and games went by, I began to sense (again, like a lot of people, including Fedorov himself and the Caps’ braintrust) that this alliance of the veteran pivot and the young, emergent team might have more life in it than just the 2007-08 season. With that in mind, I began to save snippets of conversations, scrums and the like. Seeing the impact he had on this team, and knowing his history and background, I thought it would make a great story for the summer if the Caps were able to re-sign him.
I approached Fedorov in Tampa one morning late in the season, and discussed the idea with him. I asked if he’d be willing to sit down for an inordinately long interview at some point, and if he’d be willing to discuss a wide range of topics going back to his days in the Soviet Union. He said he would, but politely asked if he could be allowed to focus on the matter at hand — namely, getting the Caps into the playoffs — for now. I told him that was fine; I just wanted to chat before he got out of town for the summer. We’d talk once the Caps had cemented their spot.
The media demands on Fedorov are a lot more than you’d imagine, especially those last few weeks of the season. It seemed that every night, multiple media/blog outlets requested an audience with him. Sometimes he’d speak three or four times a day on game days. Once the playoffs rolled around, writers were sitting with him in the room at Kettler for 30 minutes at a time. Given that environment, I felt bad about requesting a half hour to myself.
I wrote and posted the story the other day on caps. com. I ended up getting some short one-on-one chats with Fedorov over the season’s final two months (including the playoffs), a handful of postgame and post-practice scrums, and one long interview (more than 30 minutes in length) in which I took turns asking questions with The Post’s Mike Wise.
In writing my piece, I tried not to used bits of Fedorov quotes that I had used in various writings during the season and the playoffs. I also tried not to use the quotes that Wise had used. Believe me when I tell you, Fedorov gave us enough good stuff that day for four or five writers to write great stories on him without any overlap.
When a player has a career as long and storied as Fedorov’s, it’s hard to get your arms around the whole of it. So the story itself ended up being more than 4,000 words. Even still, I didn’t get a chance to ask about the Carolina offer sheet or the five-goal game against the Caps.
It’s not my style to ask about a guy’s personal life. If he wants to volunteer stuff on the record, that’s fine. But I’m old school. For me, it’s about the game. I don’t give a rat’s ass about who he’s dating or who he was married to. Tarik and I have this argument all the time. He thinks fans love that kind of stuff and eat it up. He may be right. Hell, he probably is right. But as long as he and his cohorts are digging up all that good stuff for you readers who can hardly wait for it, I can concentrate on the rest of it. The hockey.
So with that lengthy explanation out of the way, here’s the cutting room floor stuff from the Fedorov piece. Again, you may have heard some of this before if you watch postgame and post-practice video on caps.com.
On his feeling about the possibility of getting back to the playoffs for the first time in five years:
“I think playoffs for this team is now. It’s a huge goal for this organization at this stage of the season. I’m in the playoffs. In my mind, I’m in the playoffs.
“It’s been more than a couple years. I’m excited for the opportunity that’s been given personally to myself. The way we play on this team, we create our own bounces and breaks. We have to control things we can control which is winning games.”
On how his body and legs are holding up at this stage of his career:
“I think I feel comfortable enough on the ice in game situations, hockey situations, that I can skate myself out of trouble or skate the puck out of trouble, yeah.”
On the team’s play during it’s run to the division title:
“We created that certain urgency. I think game-in and game-out we realized as a group how important this is and how much focus we need and how much energy we need to get this done. I think it’s a very positive experience. I like the way we’ve responded. We’ve had our letdowns, but it’s a part of the experience.
“We found a way to turn things around. I would say, ‘You don’t do those things during the playoffs.’ But unfortunately, we’ve done them and we’ve turned things around. It’s a tradeoff. The depth on the team is good, but I prefer not to play and get down a goal and have to come up with a great effort to win it. I prefer to have a solid 60 minutes. But we found a way and that’s important. That response is more important than anything else.”
On Scotty Bowman:
“He was quite strict. He knows what he wants out of his group. He knows how to manage his players. It was difficult at times, no question about it. But the most important thing is how we reacted to it. And we reacted well most of the time. And that’s what brought us [to Stanley Cup championships].”
On the Detroit area, where he lives in the off-season:
“Living in the area doesn’t give you a chance to miss anything. Hockey is hockey. Your career happens the way it happens and you go with it. I live still in Detroit. I come back in the summer and I have all my friends there. I’m having a great time and great experience there. I’m not missing Detroit because I live there.”
On Wayne Gretzky’s comment about athletes reaching their mental peak years after they reach their physical peak (Wise used most of this one as the lead to his story):
“That’s right, you don’t enjoy it as much. You don’t know how. It comes with experience. Is that what you’re getting at? You’re happy, you’re excited at that particular moment but you don’t understand. You don’t know. Because you don’t have that experience that creates that positive wave to most of the people who are around you; your teammates, fans, your family. You just go about your business.
“In playoffs, it’s a very hard and fast pace. You only have seven games to do something. Or four or five or six. So, he’s right.”
On the string of Nike commercials he filmed and/or was referenced in:
“It was funny. I remember that time. It was fun to see commercials where you’re not part of it but they’re talking about you, especially goalies. It was pretty funny. I think Nike did a great job back then. I thought it was funny and realistic. Our business is not show business, but from that point of view, it kind of mixed together real well.
“I remember spending two days – eight hours each day – skating around and doing all that show-off stuff. It was not easy; you become an actor eventually after spending 16 hours on the ice doing fake stuff. But it looks really good on TV after they edit it. It had a funny edge to it.”
On winning the Cup in Washington with Detroit in 1998:
“It’s 10 years later. It doesn’t matter. And I’m playing for this team now, so I have to earn my wings.”
On how long he thinks he can play:
“After this year I have to sit down and think really hard if I have the fire still to play. The body is halfway there. It’s all here (tapping on his temple).”
On whether he can see himself making the late-career transition from scoring line center to checking line center a la Igor Larionov:
“Not really. I don’t think it’s similar to the style we play. I already made a transition to stay in the game. I’m not running myself to be a leader. I can play that role, second or third center, that’s no big deal for me actually. It would be a little bit easier, maybe. But people still will take shots at me because they expect the best and nothing but the best.
“So what’s the point to waste your time being a second or third center, if you’re not performing even the way even coaches expect you to perform? They think you play second or third center and do exactly the same damage as if you played the top role. And that’s miscommunication, completely. You know what I’m saying? If you have influences, it’s different than actually to play on the ice and be a game-breaker. It’s a big difference.”