Should the Red Wings retire Fedorov’s uniform number?

In 13 seasons with the Red Wings, Sergei Fedorov played 162 playoff games and scored 163 points as he helped Detroit to three Stanley Cup titles.

Red Wings pride is showcased by the retired jerseys hanging in the rafters of Little Caesars Arena. They belong to the legends of yesteryear, the architects of a reputable Hockeytown franchise.

There’s Gordie Howe’s No. 9, a number that terrorized defensemen with devastating elbows and fooled goalies with an ambidextrous shot.

There’s “Terrible” Ted Lindsay’s No. 7, a number that captained the bench, set-up shooters, and kneed opponents.

Their numbers overlook modern-day Wings who strive to match the esteemed franchise model each game, each shift. The Stanley Cups and Art Ross Trophies compiled by the old-school veterans are equally as impressive as their ongoing commitment to represent the Winged Wheel with class, dignity and respect.

But will Sergei Fedorov’s No. 91 be considered? Does it deserve a place among an elite group?

It’s a polarizing debate. We’re talking about Fedorov, a guy whose 163 playoff points rank third all-time in franchise history – but he gouged an ugly wound by bolting for Anaheim in 2003. We’re talking about a guy who amassed 954 career points in Detroit, won two Selkes and a Hart Trophy – but added another scar in 2009 by ripping Scotty Bowman’s use of the Russian Five.

Listen here: The Detroit Red Wings are a far cry from the St. Louis Blues, who once stripped the captaincy of Brett Hull, heard him call Blues fans “losers,” yet still retired his No. 16 without hesitation. That wouldn’t happen inside the hockey mecca of America, a place along the Detroit River where the ghost of Terry Sawchuk resides in the rafters, a place so prestigious, even old-time great Larry Aurie hasn’t found a perch for his No. 6 jersey.

Just listen to Steve Yzerman’s words on Jan. 2, 2007, the night of his retirement speech:

“This organization – Hockeytown as its known now – was built by Gordie Howe, by Alex Delvecchio, by Ted Lindsay, by Terry Sawchuk, and by Sid Abel, and all the tremendous players from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s,” Yzerman said.

“These players set a tremendous standard. The only way we can truly honor them is to play the way they did. And that is to play with pride, to play hard, and to give everything you have, and represent the Red Wing logo, the Red Wing organization, and the city of Detroit, just like these gentlemen did.”

Does Fedorov deserve a place among such special company?

His 954 points trumps Lindsay (728) and more than doubles Abel (463). He was brilliant in the 1990s: his 126 playoff points in the decade was tied for second best with Mark Messier (the most: Mario Lemieux, 136).

Fedorov’s four straight postseasons with 20-plus points ranks him as one of three in NHL history to accomplish the feat (Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy). And if he wasn’t a member of those Stanley Cup teams in 1997, ’98 and 2002, maybe the Wings are still experiencing a Toronto-like drought. Heck, he was a significant reason for eliminating Colorado in the ’97 Western Conference Finals: seven points in six games.

Yet, all of his achievements are covered with a black eye when you think about his attitude.

The four-month holdout in 1997-’98 was a slap in the face. Bolting for Anaheim in July of 2003 – just three months after the Ducks swept the defending champion Wings in the first round – was a kick in the face.

And then came the sucker punch: In 2009, he told a Russian newspaper that his Wings teammates were jealous of the Russian Five. How could Fedorov say such a thing? And how could he criticize the Detroit organization, who helped him defect from the Soviet Union in 1990, which helped Sergei earn millions of dollars?

If you’re a die-hard Detroit sports fan, you know there’s a proper time to boo – and a proper time to forgive. You never booed Bob Probert through his off-ice drug issues, because Probie proudly represented the Winged Wheel each time he dropped the gloves. You never booed Chris Osgood through his inconsistencies, because he exhibited that aw-shucks character and truly felt sorry for his mistakes.

Fedorov, on the other hand, is a flaky personality who disrespected a passionate fan base and heard its displeasure when he returned to Joe Louis Arena in 2003.

Maybe we were too harsh. Maybe we should’ve appreciated 13 magical seasons by No. 91. Or maybe our resentment was justified, is still justified, and Fedorov’s jersey should collect dust as long as Mr. Ilitch runs the organization.

8 replies on “Should the Red Wings retire Fedorov’s uniform number?

  • J. Conrad Guest

    The numbers perhaps say Federov deserves to have his jersey hung from the rafters at the Joe.

    Personally, however, he doesn’t represent the best of Detroit’s players. If memory serves me, he thought he deserved to wear the C on his jersey and left Detroit for money as much as to get out from under the shadow of Yzerman. What I recall most about him is that he was all about Sergei.

  • Serge

    You memory is full of holes … He didn’t leave for money he actually got same amount but extra year (which makes it less per year)…

    As far as been a shadow that’s BS… He was a go to guy at Wings and Steve was missing lots of games from 2000 on… So I don’t think it would’ve been such a bad thing at all…

  • J. Conrad Guest

    Serge: Fedorov rejected deals from the Wings for five years/$50 million and four years/$40 million to sign with Anaheim–five years, $40 million. He played only three years in Anaheim.

    So he actually left Detroit for less money. But who leaves for less money unless there was some animosity toward management, Scotty Bowman, his teammates, the fans? It was obvious he wanted out of Detroit, and now we should honor him by retiring his number? It’ll be interesting to see, should he make it into the Hall of Fame, whether he goes in as a Red Wing.

    He had a great career with the Wings, and as I stated previously, maybe his numbers warrant having his number retired, but he also had some issues … long dry spells where he couldn’t score. It got so bad that Bowman moved him to the blue line for a time.

    I don’t agree: I think making Sergei the captain would’ve been the worst thing the Wings could’ve done.

    • Steve Cadwell

      He moved to the blue line to get some much needed scoring punch and available players on the ice, in an injury riddled position.

  • Kirk

    It is an embarrassment that the most skilled player of his era in the NHL and perhaps in Detroit Red Wings history doesn’t have his number retired. Without Sergei, no cups.

  • Steve Cadwell

    He most certainly needs to have his number retired. The reason for leaving was much more about management relationship issues, than on ice issues, as some here have stated. He wasn’t the first player to ever leave, any sport, for off ice issues, and he hasn’t been the last, and won’t be…. it happens everywhere, and in every sport. The fact remains, he was electric, and had a stellar career in Detroit, and my hope is, that Stevie and the new ownership realize that. Because Stevie DOES have some sway in how this franchise is run. Does his number belong in the rafters……. I believe it does. I believe the VAST MAJORITY of Wings fans hope to see it, and honor him for his performances in our latest heyday in the NHL.

  • Chris Guyor

    Some of the greatest players throughout history have had prickly or flaky personalities. I think Fedorov has earned a place there, but it depends on how long the Ilitch family decides to nurse their grudge. They did that with Sparky Anderson, who subsequently chose to go in the Hall of Fame as a Red instead of a Tiger (Where he spent many more years). Sparky died before he got the honor he deserved at Comerica. I hope that doesn’t happen with Fedorov, too.

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