No less authority than Steve Yzerman called teammate Sergei Fedorov “The best skater I’ve ever seen.”
In his prime he was like the Elvis, Gretzky, and Air Jordan of the ice. He was simultaneously the most gifted goal scorer, an amazing defender, and the fastest man on the ice.
“I couldn’t play forward and defense,” Wayne Gretzy said, “Mario (Lemieux) couldn’t do it. (Jaromir) Jagr couldn’t play defence. But Sergei could. He was a hell of a player’.”
Fedorov was dubbed the “Top Player on the Planet”, and few who faced him or laced up alongside him disputed that label. Among Red Wings legends, the Russian has a place among the best players in franchise history. He holds the NHL record for most goals and points by a Russian-born player, and he’s considered on of the greatest playoff performers in hockey history.
Those who saw him flash across the ice will never forget Fedorov’s brilliance. At NHL All-Star festivities, he won fastest skater honors, fastest slapshot (once recorded at more than 100 MPG), and best skills player.
In 1997, when the Wings finally won their first Stanley Cup in 50 years, the “Russian Rocket” scored eight goals and 12 assists in the 20 playoff games. It was just the first of many great performances by Fedorov for the Wings in the Cup. The next year he had 10 goals and 10 assists in the playoffs, marking the fourth straight year he had at least 20 points in the pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
It was about that time that the Wings and Fedorov almost parted ways. Sergei held out for more money, earning him criticism, but eventually he signed a multi-million dollar contract and was cheered in his first game back. He was a key part of three Detroit Stanley Cup winners, providing the team with a versatile two-way player who struck fear in opponents with his daring moves.
Eventually he moved on to Anaheim, Columbus, and lastly Washington. He never looked right in those other uniforms. He enjoyed some success, especially helping young teams go deep into the playoffs with his clutch play. But he was never the same dominant player.
“I never saw anyone play the game like Sergei,” teammate Paul Coffey said. And Coffey had cut his teeth skating with the “Great One”.