Ivan Fedotov’s journey to the NHL included time on a Russian aircraft carrier

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VOORHEES, N.J. — When the Philadelphia Flyers signed Russian goalie Ivan Fedotov to a one-year contract on May 7, 2022, they figured it would be a good idea to get him to North America as soon as possible, considering the geopolitics.
They processed the visa immediately. The appropriate paperwork was filled out and filed. No, Fedotov wasn’t expected to be at prospect development camp that July, considering that he was already 25 years old, but the organization was hopeful that he would make his way to North America to get settled and get ready to compete for a roster spot at training camp in September.
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Fedotov never made it. After a training session in his hometown of St. Petersburg in preparation for the next stage of his career, he was arrested and required to serve in the Russian military for one calendar year. According to one source with knowledge of his situation, a good portion of Fedotov’s military service was spent on an aircraft carrier in the Murmansk region — far from the front lines of Russia’s war with Ukraine, which began with an invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, less than three months before he signed his Flyers contract.
Following the completion of his military obligations, it was, according to the same source, “strongly suggested” to Fedotov that he join CSKA Moscow — also known as the Russian Red Army team. He signed a two-year deal. The Flyers believed that contract was invalid — and the International Ice Hockey Federation agreed, ruling that it was — but rather than go through that battle, Fedotov and his camp figured it was best for him to get back on the ice after a year of not playing hockey at all. His NHL dreams, again, would have to wait.
Details are still hazy as to why CSKA Moscow terminated Fedotov’s deal this week after one season, allowing the Flyers to finally bring him aboard this week, with general manager Daniel Briere officially introducing him on Friday morning at the team’s training facility.
Fedotov, now 27, and who has been in the Philadelphia area since early this week, indicated on Friday that he’s ready to move forward. Because Fedotov never started his contract with the Flyers, he is eligible to play for them now.
“Now I’m here and for sure, yeah, I’m so excited and happy (to) be here,” said Fedotov, who is still learning English. “Great feelings because really difficult two years (it) was for me.”
Briere chose not to divulge any details about Fedotov’s recent travails, and prior to the news conference, a team spokesman asked the assembled media not to ask any questions of a political nature or about the player’s time in the military.
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“We want to focus on hockey for now,” Briere sad. “Eventually, we’ll get into that, but for now we’ll just leave the details out.”
Briere continued: “It’s been a long road. I give him a lot of props to keep pushing and finally have the chance to come, and hopefully it’s a new chapter for him and he gets to start his NHL career, and it goes off on the right foot.”
From a hockey perspective, all indications are that Fedotov, who stands 6-foot-7, will play. He took the ice with some of the Flyers’ rehabbing players after speaking with the media, and after holding up his new orange No. 82 Flyers sweater. He’s the only goalie other than Samuel Ersson on the roster, as Briere confirmed that Felix Sandstrom was reassigned to AHL Lehigh Valley, so he’ll presumably be backing up Ersson on Saturday when the Flyers host the Blackhawks.
The Flyers have just eight games remaining and are in a furious battle for a playoff spot. They are one point ahead of the Washington Capitals, who have two games in hand, for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
“As far as the playing, you know how it works here, (coach John Tortorella) is in charge of that,” Briere said. “(Fedotov will) be available, he’ll be on the ice and with the team practicing. Then the coaching staff will decide if he plays or not.”
Said Fedotov: “It’s really important (games) for all organization, for guys — for me, too.”
A league source confirmed that Fedotov is eligible for the playoffs, too, as he’s been on the Flyers’ reserve list all season.
In 44 regular-season KHL games this season, he was 21-22-1 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. In 2021-22, Fedotov led CSKA Moscow to the Gagarin Cup championship, posting a 14-10-2 record with a 2.00 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in 26 regular-season games. He also played in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, helping the Russian team to a silver medal.
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Adjusting to the NHL from the KHL, or any European league, isn’t always easy, but Fedotov seems ready to embrace the challenge.
“You have to be focused on the puck and don’t think too much,” he said. “It’s more faster but for me it’s really good. I like it when the game is fast as possible.”
Fedotov’s stint with the Flyers could be short because of his contract, but both he and Briere expressed confidence that a contract extension could be forthcoming.
“It’s something that we’re working on,” Briere said. “I don’t expect it to be an issue, but nothing has been done as of yet.”
Said Fedotov: “I’m here for I hope will be a long time together.”
The league source suggested that a Fedotov extension will likely be a two-year deal. If so, that would make Ersson and Fedotov the goaltending tandem for the next two seasons, as Ersson’s two-year, $2.9 million extension kicks in next season as well.
In the meantime, Fedotov will likely remain in the Philadelphia area for the offseason, according to the source with knowledge of his situation, with no plans to return to Russia in the immediate future.
Fedotov’s perseverance through the last couple of years speaks to his character, according to Briere.
“That’s what gives us confidence that he can come in and help us,” Briere said. “He’s been through a lot in his career. He’s been though a lot in his personal life. He keeps fighting. He keeps getting better, he keeps working at his craft. It’s a big part of the reason why we feel comfortable, and we’re excited to have him aboard.”
Said Fedotov: “I’m here and happy to be here and I want to help the team (in its) struggle for the playoffs, and be one of the best teams in playoffs. Excited, happy, and I want to say thanks a lot (to the) whole organization.”
(Photo of Ivan Fedotov at the 2022 Olympics: Elsa / Getty Images)

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