Thursday, December 04, 2003

The Rat Returns

Well, for thirteen years, Sergei Fedorov was a fan-favorite in Detroit. I remember when I was in grade school, I'd hear rumors that Sergei Fedorov lived here or there, and I'd get on my bike and investigate, seeking the autograph of my second-favorite player (to Yzerman, of course, the bane of Fedorov's goal to become a franchise player). But there was always a buzz around his presence, much moreso than the reserved Yzerman. He made appearances at local charity events, and instantly they turned into media circuses. I remember going to get his autograph once at a car dealership. It was pouring rain, and yet the line snaked around the building in an endless coil of fanship. Apparently that had no affect on the man in the end, when dollar signs and business details came into the picture. He left us once, defecting to Illitch rival Peter Karmanos' team down in Carolina, accepting an offer that amounted to $28 million in bonuses and salary for a half-season of play. I don't think he even said goodbye. He flew down there and started practicing with the team, turning his back to the organization and its fans. And for a guy who now claims he wants to be a franchise player, always bitter about his role in the shadow of Captain Steve Yzerman, how does he figure that a franchise player would leave his first team, the team that helped him defect from the Soviet Union, on a whim for quick cash. Then we fished him out of Carolina's clutches, and he tried to act as if everything was fine. It took me a long time to forgive Sergei for that. I believe he knew that Illitch would match the offer sheet, so it was Sergei's method of getting his way. Then he left us a second time, rejecting a 5 year, $50 million dollar offer Illitch made personally to Sergei, only to accept a 5 year, $40 million dollar contract from Anaheim. Then he blasted Detroit in the media, saying that the Duckies were the only team to give him a fair deal. Right..... Manny Legace says it best: "Just some of the things he said in the news bothered me a little bit," said goaltender Manny Legace, referring to Fedorov likening leaving Detroit to defecting from the USSR. "The town welcomed him for 13 years, treated him like a movie star, put him on a pedestal, they loved him here. To say some of the stuff he did, the guys didn't think it was right. But Sergei's Sergei sometimes, doesn't think." I was honestly more mad the first time he left, because it was very sudden. I saw the contract dispute looming, and knew it might be the time Hollywood Fedorov comes to town. Making weird moves, trying to leave town in the middle of the night, without truthfully explaining to the fans why he was leaving. Well, Fedorov is in Disneyland now, trying to be the franchise player he could never be in Yzerman's shadow. But what he is probably beginning to realize is that Detroit has the best fans in the NHL, and you can't take that for granted. He might be a fad out there, but I don't think he'll ever be as big as he was as in Hockeytown, either in performance or popularity. Boy did I enjoy tonight's 7-2 walloping of the Duckies!! The fans justifiably booed Fedorov, because you can't expect fans who have followed the guy since the beginning to give him a big hug the second time he has left the team, pretty much for vague reasons. I know people are saying that, "oh, we should be angels and totally support his decision." Screw that, not only does he leave the team twice, he bashes us, making the comment that he was defecting from the USSR when he left us for Anaheim. He should actually take the booing as a complement, because it reflects how much the fans cared about him. If he was Maxim Kuznetsov or something, half the crowd wouldn't even notice, and the rest would not even care. Heck, I don't even think the crowd will waste their energy booing Larionov when he comes to town with the Devils January 29. They might give it to Money-Bags Lapointe when he returns January 9 with the Bruins, but certainly not 1/10 of what Sergei got, probably not even detectable over the television. I really love watching Fedorov on the ice, but I have no need for second fanships, especially to the Disney Ducks. He left for the enemy, so he should accept his position. I will say though, part of me enjoyed the goal he scored tonight, because it brought back some good memories of the Russian Five and Sergei dominating the Caps that one night, I think he had 5 goals or something. The crowd acknowledged this sentiment too, because there was more of a mixture of cheers and boos after the goal. Despite this, let's just say that most true Red Wing fans aren't looking for his house to get autographs anymore (as he still owns a house in Metro Detroit, and his parents currently reside there), but rather to get back at Sergei the Rat. The Rat part of me misses greatly. And for those of you who remember Sergei's Dad always insanely bantering to the media that Sergei is going to leave, I guess he's finally right after all those years.


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