Since the release of the documentary Red Army last year, Slava Fetisov earned universal praise as a hero for his principled stand against the authoritarian Russian hockey regime that controlled his fate during his playing days. Now that he’s elected to the KHL's board of directors, the Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman, changed his mind about freedom. Fetisov proposed to ban Russian players from pursuing their NHL dreams until they reach the age of 28.
Fetisov is being hypocritical in his proposal to prevent young players from leaving Russia. As he’s said himself, the lure of the NHL isn’t the money. It’s the irresistible opportunity for an athlete to prove himself in competition against the best players in the world. Fetisov, himself, struggled against his coaches, teammates and the Kremlin to open the door to the NHL for players from his country.
After years of struggling for freedom to play in the NHL, he finally was permitted to join the New Jersey Devils in 1989-90 at the age of 31. Despite his late arrival, he spent nine seasons with the Devils and Red Wings, winning the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 1997 and 1998. With gold medals at the World Championships, Olympics and Canada Cup, Fetisov was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2001.
Despite his track record of success, his lasting legacy was his efforts to promote free movement for hockey players between Russia and North America. Now he makes a proposal that goes against everything he stood for? It’s possible president Vladimir Putin is coercing Fetisov into making this proposal. Or maybe the system Fetisov fought against as a younger man makes more sense to him when he’s gotten older and given a position with power.