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EDITORIAL: Sergei Fedorov’s ’91’ should NOT be retired by the Red Wings

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Detroit Sports Nation’s Nate Webb made a very compelling case for Sergei Fedorov’s number to be forever raised to the rafters. This piece is not intended to diminish from Nate’s body of work or from the largely successful professional hockey career that Fedorov had. The intention here is to point out that Sergei’s career, while great, does not meet the threshold for the Detroit Red Wings to retire his jersey.

There is a distinct quality to the legacy that Fedorov carved as a player. He defected from the Soviet Union to carve a hockey career for himself in America. There is little doubt that this motivated his tireless work ethic for the duration of his time on the ice. Former players and coaches had endless praise for him at his 2015 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Scotty Bowman, Chris Chelios, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, and Alexander Ovechkin all spoke to Fedorov’s uncanny flexibility on both ends of the ice.

The references, the stats, the level to which he played every night. All of this speaks to why No. 91 should be retired from the rafters, right? Think again. 

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Loyalty above all else

After Detroit lost to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the first round of the 2003 playoffs, Sergei Fedorov did the unthinkable. He left the Red Wings organization for the team that had just beat them, and he left them for a lesser contract. Fans and players of the Detroit Red Wings organization were completely and utterly shocked. Detroit sports fans pride themselves on being a loyal fan base and expect the same from their athletes.

The Detroit Red Wings rectified an issue from a bygone era by recently announcing their intent to retire Red Kelly’s No. 4. More than fifty years had passed from the time it should have been retired, but the Ilitch family saw fit to retire a key person that the organization had unnecessarily sent away. Fedorov chose to leave to greener pastures, on his own accord, and, in the process, spurned an organization that had done right by him.

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Continuously retiring jerseys waters down the meaning

Sawchuk, Kelly, Lidstrom, Lindsay, Howe, Delvecchio, Abel, Yzerman.

The Detroit Red Wings are the most storied NHL franchise in the United States and are third in championships to the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, (dis)respectfully. As storied as the Wings franchise has been, they have eight players, eight all-time greats, that have been deemed worthy of having their jersey forever hung from the rafters in Detroit. This isn’t a casual “Oh, he was great, let’s add him to the list” mentality that some teams have adopted. The New York Yankees and Boston Celtics seem to do this on an almost-annual basis.

If Detroit decides to add Sergei’s No. 91 to the hallowed company in the LCA rafters, it will largely be to boost their well-documented struggling attendance numbers. Rest be assured, if the Red Wings were contenders this year, the topic of a jersey retirement would not be at the forefront of anyone’s mind. Retiring Sergei Fedorov’s number would be disrespectful to the organization’s history and to those few players whose numbers have already been retired.

Nation, what is your take on this topic?  Feel free to let us know what your take is on this hotly debated topic!

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