Fetisov: Lockout is ruining hockey

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The other day in Moscow, the IOC 2012 Evaluation Commission had lunch at the Kremlin. And, even though Paul Henderson was in attendance, there was no discussion about the famous game-winning goals in the 1972 Summit Series. The Paul Henderson in attendance was not the former Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings winger. Instead, it was Canada's former IOC member and past president of the International Sailing Federation.

At the luncheon, a distinguished-looking individual who had the look of a former athlete introduced himself as "the minister of sport for Russia."

For those who know Henderson the sailor, ministers of sport do not usually impress him and, for that reason, Henderson didn't even catch the Russian's name.

As the conversation between the two progressed, the Russian minister alluded to the fact that he had once played in the NHL and then went on to state that the current lockout was ruining a great game.

Naively, Henderson asked: "What is your name again?"

The Russian replied: "Vyacheslav Fetisov."

For one of the few times in his life, Henderson was speechless as he realized that this was Russian hockey legend Fetisov, the Bobby Orr of Russia.

Fetisov then related the story of his first meeting with Gordie Howe.

"I was 19 years old and playing for the Red Army team against the World Hockey Association and, specifically, the Hartford Whalers in the early '70s," Fetisov began.

"On the first shift I went into the corner to get the puck off some aging, grey-haired player. Immediately, I became the victim of one of Gordie Howe's renowned elbows. Lying on the ice with stars in my eyes, I didn't have any idea of what had hit me."

It took Fetisov a period to get the cobwebs out, but he returned to face Howe. Fetisov was a master of the "hip check" and caught Mr. Hockey full and laid him out. Howe's sons, Mark and Marty, immediately jumped Fetisov, causing a 40-minute bench-clearing brawl.

Eighteen years later, after Fetisov was allowed out of the Soviet Union and had played for the New Jersey Devils, he was traded, now 37, to Detroit. Fetisov recalled the day when Gordie Howe came into the Red Wings dressing room and immediately walked up and said: "Nice hip check, kid."

Fetisov then went on to win two Stanley Cups as a player with the Red Wings before returning to New Jersey to win a third Cup ring as an assistant coach.

After his NHL run, Fetisov returned to his native Russia and, when Vladimir Putin became president of Russia, he was asked to serve as sports minister. The thinking was that a great Russian athlete with experience in sports and as an administrator on both sides of the Atlantic would be a great asset in Mother Russia.

Of course, it seems that Canada currently prefers to have ministers of sport who wouldn't know a biathlon from a triathlon, or an iron cross from a cross-cut, or a Paul Henderson, the hockey player, from Paul Henderson, the sailor.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

The financially troubled Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and its hard-working curator, Allan Steward, parted company a few weeks ago. The Hall, thanks to the cancellation of the move from Toronto to an Ottawa location, has lost $17 million in corporate sponsorships, but seems to be bouncing back. The new board of directors appointed Sheryn Posen as its chief operating officer last week. Posen informed me that the financial situation is improving and that the coming golf tournament is almost sold out ... Toronto 11-year-old Christine (Peng Peng) Lee is on her way to becoming Canada's next hopeful in Olympic gymnastics. At a recent international event in Montreal, Lee beat 15-year-old opponents from Russia, Mexico, France and Belgium to capture gold in floor exercises and the balance beam.


Videos

Photos