Fans treat apprehensive Fedorov to huge ovation

Sergei Fedorov came back home Tuesday, and like so many others who came before him, the fans paid him back with applause and respect.

DETROIT — As they were about to be introduced to the crowd at Comerica Park on Tuesday, Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan were standing side by side in the Detroit Tigers dugout.

Each was a little apprehensive, not knowing what to expect.

"It’s funny," Shanahan said, "we were one right after the other (being introduced), and Sergei said to me, ‘Do you think they’re going to boo me?’

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"I said, ‘I was just thinking the same thing about me. Why would they boo you?’ And he said, ‘Why would they boo you?’

"So I guess we were both thinking about it a little bit, but hey."

Shanahan’s apprehension stems from being the Discipline Czar of the NHL. He hands down player suspensions, which makes him the target of the fans’ ire.

Fedorov’s fears were more rooted in his career in Detroit, where he was a superstar but not the darling of Hockeytown.

And after he turned down a $40 million contract offer from the Wings and signed essentially the same deal with Anaheim, he was booed every time he touched the puck at Joe Louis Arena.

"I wasn’t sure how it was going to be," Fedorov said of the crowd’s reaction Tuesday. "Honestly, I don’t why I thought that, but I’m being honest with you guys. I was ready for anything.

"But most important (to me), was to play with the guys that I played with for 13 seasons, and it was great times, great times."

Although he said he understands why he was booed in Detroit as a Duck and feels bad because he let the fans down, Fedorov maintains — as he always has — that he never wanted to leave the Red Wings.

"Unfortunately, that’s a professional hockey life," Fedorov said. "I am the one who has to be responsible for everything."

When he was introduced before Game 2 of the Alumni Showdown against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the crowd’s ovation was long and thunderous. Fedorov responded with a fist pump and a bit of a sigh underneath his breath.

What he thought might turn out as a sour homecoming couldn’t have gone any better. He was back in the only NHL uniform he ever wanted to play in.

"I think when he first left, probably there were some (negative) emotions (for Detroit fans)," Red Wings GM Ken Holland said. "But when you look back and you think what an incredible impact Sergei had on our franchise, he was one of the great players in the league, won a Hart Trophy.

"So I don’t think he should be apprehensive because I think everybody in town remembers what an incredible, positive impact he had on this city and on our organization."

Maybe not everybody realizes what a terrific talent Fedorov was because there were times when he appeared moody and too unassuming on the ice. But the men who played with him remember.

"People came (here today) to celebrate both teams and the organizations," former Wings captain Steve Yzerman said. "Sergei came all the way over from Russia. He’s a big part of our franchise. He’s a huge part of us winning.

"To have him come back along with Kozzie (Slava Kozlov), Iggy (Igor Larionov), and Slava (Fetisov), and to have Vladdie (Konstantinov) here, was absolutely huge for our team. It was important that they were here."

Once the Tigers/Wings locker room started to empty, Fedorov sat on his stool, and a smile slowly appeared on his face. He told me earlier that Detroit is his home. He still spends his summers in Michigan andhas always appreciated the support from the people of Detroit.

"It was great," said Fedorov about his day. "There were a lot of emotions. I think I have to sit on it for a while, at least a week or two.

"Every guy, every friend, every collogue, I saw today — it reminded me of a lot of emotions. We played together so many games, so many hard ways we won together.

"The core of the team played more than 10 years together. It was surreal."

Fedorov came back home Tuesday, and like so many others who came before him, the fans paid him back with applause and respect.

It was the right way to honor one of Detroit’s greatest players ever.