[Sad news, indeed, for all the Fedorov groupies. He has officially signed a 2 year contract with the KHL team Metallurg Magnitogorsk. Tomorrow's edition of Sport-Express will feature this interview with Fedorov, which took place several hours after the signing. Enjoy. (Or not, if you are of the groupie persuasion.)]
The event was expected, and at long last came the announcement: well-known Russian forward Sergei Fedorov is returning to Russia. He has signed a two-year contract with Magnitogorsk Metallurg. Several hours after signing the agreement with Magnitka, the Ural Uber-Rookie answered a few questions from Sport-Express correspondent Alexander Shapiro.
They say that Viktor Rashikov, head of the Ural club, dreamed that you would someday become a player for Metallurg.
"I met him a few years ago when he visited Columbus. I realized right away that this was a serious guy and that he lived for hockey and his club. But we didn't talk about the Russian championship at that time. I had a contract overseas, so all my thoughts at that time were far from Magnitogorsk. But when my brother Fedor signed a contract with Magnitka, I decided for myself that I would continue my career specifically with that club."
Did you get any other proposals to continue your career in Russia?
"Yeah, offhand I know that several clubs were interested in me."
In the middle of the 90's you had the occasion to visit Magnitogorsk, when the Super Series was touring among Russian cities. What do you remember from that?
"No matter where we played then, the arenas were packed. I remember that in Magnitogorsk there wasn't an empty seat in the house. That was my main impression. I know that they really love hockey in that town. My brother told me about that when he joined that club several years ago."
Are you acquainted with Magnitka's head coach Valery Belousov?
"I'm not sure, but it's possible that our paths have crossed."
Other than your brother Fedor, do you know anybody else in your new club?
"No, but you just need a couple of practices to get to know the guys."
Are there any bonuses in your contract?
"I don't want to discuss the financial aspects of the contract."
So if your brother had not signed with Magnitogorsk, would you have gone there?
"I don't have an answer to that question."
It's possible that your coming to Russia will make it easier for you to get to the Olympics in Vancouver. Do you agree?
"The Olympics are a dream of every hockey player. But to tell the truth, it doesn't really matter where you play, in Russia or in the NHL. No place gives you an advantage."
What do you think about the fact that you'll most certainly be compared to the Avangard leader, Jaromir Jagr?
"Jaromir is absolutely a first class hockey player. But how can you compare us if we have different roles? He's a winger and I'm a center. Of course, it's great that such an outstanding player is playing another year in Russia."
When are you planning on starting your preparations for the new season?
"As you know, the Russian season starts a month earlier than in the NHL. You have to be in good shape for the preseason, so it is already time to start training. Especially since you have to do a lot more skating on the large rinks."
It was a shock to Washington hockey fans when they learned that you were going to Magnitka.
"I understand those folks. Up to the very end they hoped that I would stay. But I made a different decision, to return to my homeland."
Would you say that your overseas career has ended?
"To be honest, I'd rather not discuss such scenarios. The main thing right now is that leadership of Magnitka was seriously interested in my services."
Is it hard to leave the NHL?
"I played two decades in the strongest league in the world. There were a lot of good times during that. I won three Stanley Cups. But I always dreamed of playing on the same team with my brother."
How did you part with Washington?
"Recently at the awards presentation in Las Vegas I saw the Capital's general manager. We had hoped to meet there, but it never happened. It was a very stressful day."
Is your leaving Washington connected with the fact that you weren't offered a very good financial deal?
"I can say that I am fully satisfied with the contract Magnitka offered me."
Why didn't you come and play in Russia during the lockout several years ago, like a lot of other NHL players?
"I wasn't invited. Plus, there was a really important issue with insurance connected with this. If you were injured, you might suffer a salary loss. It turned out that a lot of foreign players came over at great risk."
Do you know that your former partner Donald Brashear is also interested in Russia?
"We never talked about his plans, but I saw something about that in the press. I also know that another of my teammates, Victor Kozlov, signed a contract with Salavat Yulaev."
Why are players leaving Washington?
"Everybody has the right to choose where they'll play. Victor and I were considered veterans, and after we leave the team will be young again. We made a decision, but don't forget that you still have Ovechkin and Semin in Washington, along with an outstanding center forward, Backstrom Lots of good things can be said about the goaltender Varlamov, who came onto the team during a difficult series with the Rangers and proved his worth 200%."
Did you follow the Stanley Cup finals?
"Yeah, and on one hand I'm glad for Pittsburgh, and on the other I'm upset with Detroit's defeat. To be honest, I was certain that my former club would be victorious."
Before the beginning of the season last year, everywhere you looked the KHL was playing video clips featuring Jagr, Morozov and Radulov. Are you ready to take their place?
"That's not important. What is much more important is that the puck, shot by me, goes past the goaltender and ends up in the net."
You haven't played in Russia in almost 20 years, yet you don't have a North American accent.
"I have somebody to practice with. Plus I read a lot, and not just detective and romance novels but also different encyclopedias. Basically, I've been lucky because no matter where I played there were always a lot of Russians on the team."
When are you flying to Russia?
"Training camp starts on July 20th. That's when I'll fly to Magnitogorsk."
Considering your two year contract with Magnitka, is there not a desire to add two Gagarin Cups to the three Stanley Cups?
"That would be awesome and outstanding. But you know that winning, especially two times in a row, is no simple feat. Although this is, of course, a great objective."