Jeff Riger: Homer Or Sergei? You Choose!
It’s very often that I get called awful names while doing a radio show. In fact, it is so often that I have actually started to like it. People text or e-mail nasty terms to me and I read everything on the air in hopes that maybe, just maybe those same people will realize how stupid they sound with their rips. Of course those realizations rarely come true and instead it’s just me choosing to degrade myself in between taking calls and constantly telling myself that “I can take it.” Ok, I really don’t tell myself that, well maybe I do sometimes. OK, let’s just move on shall we?
So on Thursday night after the Wings beat the Coyotes at the Joe 5-2; I once again started to get called nasty, dirty names on the postgame show because of a topic I was talking about. You see, Tomas Holmstrom was one of the five Wings that scored in the 1st period of the game as Detroit easily ended their two game losing skid. Holmstrom’s goal was a bit historic as it came on the power play and tied him with Sergei Fedorov for fourth on the all time Wings power play goal list. Homer has five goals this season; all of them have come on the man advantage. So when I heard that #91 and #96 were tied, I instantly thought what a great radio topic it would be if I asked which one of the two players is or was the better Red Wing? I also have to be honest; I also knew the topic would make people mad as well, which works too.
Now, Federov is done playing and he has been for a while. In fact those who say that his career ended when he left Detroit are absolutely right. After that 2002-03 season when Fedorov shocked all and bolted for the sunshine of Anaheim, he was never the same player. But before leaving, Sergei was an amazing Wing. Without #91, the Wings probably don’t win three Stanley Cups. In his time in Detroit, Fedorov played 13 seasons at the Joe and accumulated 400 goals and 952 points. The Pskov, Russia native won a Hart trophy and more importantly was dating Anna Kournikova and was able to pull off the leather pants look as well. Fedorov took you out of your seat, he left your jaw hitting the floor and he won! That’s why, when he left town, people to this day still have not forgiven him and continue to boo every time they hear his name or see his picture. Fedorov belonged to Detroit and then he bailed! Not to mention he was a very solid defensive forward as well.
Sergei also, despite wearing some pretty sweet Nike skates did not give 100% all the time and was thought the be quite the prim donna as well. The words “Sergei” and “team” did not always go together. Fedorov was high maintence, but I guess he deserved to be considering how good he was on the ice.
And then there is Tomas Holmstrom, a guy that never, even on his best day will be mistaken for Fedorov. Holmstrom, simply put could be one of the best in the history of the game at his craft, meaning getting in front of the opposing goalie and net and taking a beating game after game after year after year. The Swede also can play on any line you ask him to, all while being on the top power play unit for Mike Babcock. Think of how many goals he has accounted for with the extra attacker that he has redirected or scored while falling down. Holmstrom also has one more Stanley Cup then Fedorov. Of course Homer’s stats are nowhere near as good as Sergei’s. In Holmstrom’s 15th year in Detroit, the Pitea, Sweden native has combined for 240 goals and 426 points. The Wings veteran doesn’t even have half the numbers that Fedorov has in just two seasons less with the team. Heck, you are probably reading this blog and wonder why I am even wasting my time.
Well let me tell you!
When somebody talks about the prototypical Red Wings, I think Nick Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman, guys from when I grew up watching the team, and thankfully one of them is still playing and could win his 8th Norris trophy this season. Fellas like Nick and Stevie think “team” first and stats and personal gain second. These guys built a culture of working “your ass” off and making it all about winning and nothing else. That to me is the definition of a “Red Wing!” A guy that would change the way he plays, knowing he will score less because there is a better chance to win games and championships. That is what Yzerman did, would Fedorov? No! Would Holmstrom? Yes!
You can’t blame Sergei for wanting to go out in that big hockey world and see if he could make it on his own. You can’t blame him for wanting to get out of the shadow of Yzerman so he could have the spotlight all to himself! But you have to give credit to Holmstrom who decided not to do the same. I’m not even talking about less money either, I never would say a guy should take less, because you never know when that last check will make its way in front of you. Make all the money that you can! But Homer wanted to be here, Sergei didn’t and that counts. That is very “Red Wing” like!
Before Holmstrom signed his last deal, every team in the league wanted him but he wanted to be here. Holmstrom liked the system and the organization that he was part of and he never thought about leaving and that means something. But most of all he liked his chances to win, and that means everything. Holmstrom is a guy that does what is asked of him. He doesn’t complain he doesn’t make excuses; he just plays and does a job that nobody else on this team or really in the league does as well as he. Use whatever adage you feel necessary to describe a “team player” and Holmstrom encapsulates them all.
The guy is a gamer!
He is a Red Wing!
Fedorov was a star first and everything else second.
The reason I think Homer should be thought of as a better Wing when it’s all said and done is simple. He’s more interested in a successful team while Fedorov, from what it seemed like was more interested in himself. Hell, ask Holmstrom who the better Wing is and he might even say Sergei, but that modesty is another check in the right box for the Swede.
I am also a huge believer in the fact that Homer has never been as popular in this city as he could have because of the true greats that he played with, one of them being Fedorov. But I am also a huge believer that after laying out this argument, you too will see things the same way as I do. That Tomas Holmstrom, when his playing days are over and we hope that time is not soon, will go down and the better RED WING then Sergei Fedorov!
You buying that? Tell me why I’m wrong!
But please, save the dirty names for the radio.