Soviet hockey official says Red Wings stole its player


DETROIT -- Soviet hockey star Sergei Fedorov surfaced Tuesday in Detroit after signing a five-year contract with the Red Wings amid charges by a Soviet ice hockey official that the center was stolen by the NHL team.

Yuri Korolev, the first vice-president of the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation, spoke at the athletes village in Kennewick, Wash., where the Soviet hockey team was preparing for the start of competition Friday at the Goodwill Games.


'It was something like the wild west, they stole our player,' Korolev said. 'It was premeditated, the plans were not made by Fedorov, the plans were made by the recruiters (Red Wings).

'Fedorov could have left under normal circumstances. What upsets me the most is the thievery, the way he was stolen. It drives a wedge between the relationship between the NHL and the Soviet Union.'


Fedorov, 20, disappeared following a weekend Soviet National Team game in Portland, Ore. The Red Wings claim he did not defect, and that they would seek a work permit for the player, the Red Wings'fourth round draft pick in 1989.

'Having this happen on the eve of the goodwill games,' Korolev said, 'is like a spoon of tar in a barrell of honey.'

Red Wings executive vice president Jim Lites said the club would seek an H-1 Visa for Fedorov. The H-1 Visa is the standard work permit sought by all Canadians and other foreign nationals who play hockey in the United States.

'He has every intention of returning to the Soviet Union when his playing career is over,' Lites said. 'He is not a defector. He enjoys playing for the (Soviet) National Team. He would like to play for the Soviet National Team in events that fall outside the NHL schedule.'

Korolev insisted Fedorov be returned immediately to the Soviet team, and if he was, the center would be allowed to play in the Games.

Fedorov did not appear at the press conference called by the Red Wings to announce his signing. Terms were not disclosed but Lites noted 'he has a pretty good idea of what he's worth.'


Lites also insisted Detroit would not pay the Soviet Union any money to smooth Fedorov's way.

'The only way there might be a problem is if he's under contract to a foreign team,' Lites said, 'or if he has a criminal record. He is not a member of the military. If they (the Soviets) say he has a signed contract, we'll deal with that later.'

NHL president John Ziegler reportedly was not pleased with Detroit's spiriting the Soviet star away from his National Team, but would not oppose the signing as long as the Red Wings operated according to league rules.

NHL teams paid the Soviet hockey federation to obtain releases for eight players in the past two seasons to come play in the U.S. or Canada.

What made the Fedorov situation different from previous Soviet players entering the NHL was his presence on American soil. Since he was already on U.S. soil, they did not have to seek permission for him to enter the United States.

'The INS definitely has the ability to say no,' Lites said. 'At that point, we'll take another approach.'

Red Wings' coach-general manager Bryan Murray was also at the press conference and said he'd seen Fedorov 'seven or eight times at the World Championships. He's hard-working, competitive, a very talented young man. He works very hard. He has certainly prepared himself to play in the NHL.'


Lites would not disclose where Fedorov was staying in the Detroit area but acknowledged he was in the area and will begin learning to speak English in a day or two.

He said it normally takes two weeks to obtain a work permit but it could take longer in this case. He said the Soviet government had not been in touch with the Red Wings, but had contacted Ziegler.

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