Krutov Larionov Fetisov Kasatonov Tretiak

VIACHESLAV FETISOV

“He is the kind of guy you’d like to take the formula, put it in a bottle and let all the younger players drink that formula, because there is no one like him”.       -Dave Lewis, assistant coach Detroit Red Wings-                                                                                                    

There are sporting stars in the world who you might forget after a few years and there are guys who you will remenber forever and tell your children with pride that you once saw them play. Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Pele... guys like that. Fetisov is definitely one of them!

Born on 20th April 1958 in Moscow, Viacheslav (Slava) joined the Central Red Army in 1974-75 and played there for 15 years. During this time he won the national title 14 times, was awarded player of the year three times, nine times Soviet League All-Star, and was also awarded the Pravda Trophy four times as best scoring defenseman in his country. He was Captain for nine years.

His international career began in 1975 when he played his first game for the USSR junior team. He won the junior world title in 1977 and 1978. His first World Championship appearance with the Soviet national squad was in 1978, where he helped his team to win the title. Then followed six further gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the IIHF World Championships. He was named as an All-Star during these tournaments eight times. Slava participated in three Olympic tournaments winning gold in 1984 and 1988 and silver in 1980. He earned the “Gold Stick” award as the best European player three times.

A lot of people say that Fetisov, at the peak of his career, was better than Canadian legend Bobby Orr.  Slava played many years of his career together with Alexei Kasatonov behind the famous KLM-Line. That changed in maybe the most important year for international hockey - 1989

After years behind the iron curtain, with no rights and without permission to play in other countries, Fetisov, together with Igor Larionov forced the rebellion against the Soviet system. 

Fetisov: “The Soviet minister of defense tried to scare me, demanding that I apologize for asking to leave. He gave me an ultimatum: apologize or be sent to Siberia, where we will make life very difficult for you. I knew that if I took even a small step back, I would be in deep trouble. I faced a lot of intimidation; most of my friends were afraid to talk to me. It was the toughest time of my life, but I finally won the war. I was the first Soviet to sign a direct contract with the NHL, and I’m proud to say that not only hockey players followed me. The door opened for people in every profession.”  Fetisov won so many medals and awards in his life, but this was the biggest victory. It was a victory against a whole system.

When Fetisov moved to the NHL to the New Jersey Devils he was already 31 years old. He didn’t need to prove his strength again. He was already a hockey legend in 1989. But his big ambitions made him make this step. At the beginning it was difficult. The North American people were raised to hate the Russians. Even his teammates disliked him at first. It was not easy to begin his new life. After five good years with the Devils he changed teams and signed with the Detroit Red Wings. There he fulfilled his last big dream of winning the Stanley Cup in 1997. After that he wanted to retire from active playing but one night changed his plans. After a celebration party a few days after the last game against the Philadelphia Flyers he was involved in a tragic car accident. Although he only suffered small injuries himself, his teammate and friend, Vladimir Konstantinov and the team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov weren’t so lucky. They suffered heavy head injuries and suddenly nothing was as it had been before. Slava put his skates on again with one big goal - to win the Cup again for Vladi and Sergei. And he did. With the unbelievable help and heart of his teammates, the Red Wings were able to win the Cup back to back in 1998. After beating Washington in four games, Captain Steve Yzerman brought the Cup to Vladimir Konstantinov. This was one of the most emotional moments in sport history.

Fetisov: “I want to be close to Vladi. I told him I’m not going to give him a break until he walks again. I feel like he’s my younger brother. I have to stay until he gets back to normal”.

Slava ended his active hockey career in the jersey of the Detroit Red Wings at the age of 40. He became an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, where he won his third Stanley Cup in 2000.

He played his last game in front of 14000 people in August in Moscow with a Russian All-Star team against a World Star team. He turned his testimonial game into a fundraiser for the families of the crew who had lost their lives in the tragic “Kursk” submarine catastrophe a few days previous to that.

Not only this, but a whole lot more makes him an immortal hero of Hockey, and the Russian fans want to see him behind the bench coaching the national team during the Olympics 2002 in Salt Lake City.