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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fetisov Looks for Salt Lake Heroes

NEW YORK -- Vyacheslav Fetisov once said no to his country. Of course, it was a different country back then, in 1988, before the walls came down.

Recently he has seen a few Russian hockey players say no to the new country that has emerged.

"These guys make their choices; that is what we were fighting about," Fetisov said, shaking his head with solemn, physical irony. (Think Russell Crowe with a Russian accent.)

One day very soon, Fetisov, 43, will be the first Russian-born head coach in the National Hockey League. Right now, the man known as Slava has three jobs. He is the assistant coach of the New Jersey Devils. He is also the coach and the general manager of the Russian national team that will compete in the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

It is an exciting time for this sport, but Fetisov, the old Soviet Union hero and rebel, has had to persuade the 23 best Russian players, who now earn fantastic salaries in the NHL, that they really want to represent their homeland.

Ultimately, Fetisov said, three players turned him down -- Toronto's Alexander Mogilny, Buffalo's Alexei Zhitnik and Dallas' Sergei Zhubov.

Some Russian players are so sated that they leaned toward a short vacation like most of the players in the league. More than a few have grudges against the arcane politics of Russian sports.

"Professionalism is one thing," Fetisov said Wednesday. "Patriotism is another thing. You are not supposed to forget where you came from. It's still your country."

He does not have to explain that he has been through this very Russian soul-searching in a far more difficult time. He won two gold medals in three Winter Games as a state-supported amateur, but finally in the transient later days of the Gorbachev regime, Fetisov said nyet to playing for his nation any longer.

He also declined to defect to the Devils, who were promising him American dollars if he would just slip across the border. That was not the right way, he said. Instead, in a country not known for its litigation, Fetisov went to court for his freedom to leave the army, break with the national team and play professionally overseas.

There were threats of Siberia and phone taps. At least once, government thugs in leather jackets roughed up the national hero. But Fetisov's Russian lawyers won his case, and he flew to New Jersey, and eventually hoisted two Stanley Cups in Detroit.

The Russians know the history. Fetisov made his telephone calls, and on every Devils trip he chatted up the Russian players scattered around this continent.

"I tell them, 'You are stars in Dallas, Toronto, New York, but people need to see you back home,'" Fetisov said.

"This is going to be one of the greatest hockey tournaments ever," Fetisov said, who played in Lake Placid in 1980, Sarajevo in 1984 and Calgary in 1988.

On Friday, he completed Russia's roster at the Russian Consulate General in New York, and is awaiting word on the eligibility of San Jose goalie Yevgeni Nabokov.

Fourteen players were named in addition to the eight Fetisov had named earlier this year. The final spot will be filled once the dispute surrounding Nabokov is settled. The International Ice Hockey Federation declared Nabokov ineligible to play for Russia because he had competed for Kazakhstan as a junior in 1994. He and the Russian team are fighting the decision.

The case will be settled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. It is not clear when the decision will come.

Florida's Valery Bure was named, joining brother Pavel. Valery Bure assured Fetisov he would be able to contribute even after tearing knee cartilage in mid-October. He is expected to be out of NHL action until mid-January.

Fetisov also selected his former CSKA teammate, Igor Larionov of Detroit. The 41-year-old Larionov will serve as captain.

Detroit forward Sergei Fedorov was named, ending months of speculation that he might back out to rest nagging injuries, as was Atlanta phenomenon Ilya Kovalchuk, called a "great rising star" by Fetisov.

Tampa Bay's Nikolai Khabibulin is the No. 1 goalie, backed up by Yegor Podomatsky, who plays for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

After adding six players to complete the U.S. Olympic roster Saturday in New York, coach Herb Brooks called the process "painful."

"All coaches can tell you nobody likes to do this sort of thing," he said.

Brooks and his staff chose forwards Mike York of the New York Rangers, Adam Deadmarsh of Los Angeles, Brian Rolston of Boston and defensemen Phil Housley of Chicago, Aaron Miller of Los Angeles and Tim Poti of Edmonton.

General manager Craig Patrick called it a "combination of flat-out All Stars and a very complementary group."

York, the 23-year-old wing from Michigan, has 37 points -- 15 goals and 22 assists -- this season, fourth-best in the NHL, but tops among U.S.-born players.

Rolston, also from Michigan, entered Saturday's game against the Islanders with 17 goals and 13 assists for Boston. The 28-year-old player led Team USA with seven goals in eight Olympic contests in Lillehammer.

Deadmarsh has 12 goals and nine assists for the Kings. He had one goal in the Nagano Olympics. (NYT, AP)