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08/21/1998 11:18:03 Ice hockey-Fetisov to play his last game

By Gennady Fyodorov

MOSCOW, Aug 21 (Reuters) - After a brilliant ice hockey

career spanning more than two decades, Vyacheslav Fetisov is

ready to hang up his skates.

The 40-year-old defenceman, who won numerous world, European

and Olympic titles for the Soviet Union in the late 1970s and

80s and two consecutive Stanley Cups with the NHL's Detroit Red

Wings, last month announced his retirement as a player to become

an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils.

On Saturday, a dozen or so Soviet veterans will take on the

Russian All-Stars, made up primarily of players from North

American professional leagues, to pay tribute to Fetisov in his

official farewell game.

"I didn't know that it would be so hard to say goodbye to

hockey," Fetisov said this week in Moscow, where the former

Soviet captain is participating in his last competition -- the

annual pre-season Spartak Cup.

"But sooner or later the time has come for me to finish it

off where I started, here in Moscow."

Last month Fetisov turned down a Red Wings offer to play one

more year as a professional and opted to start a career as a

coach.

"I'll have enough time to think if this is what I really

want," he said referring to his three-year contract with New

Jersey.

"If this doesn't suit me or if I'm not good enough I will

immediately quit coaching and start something else."

Fetisov, who also has a business relationship with Russia

and Vancouver Canucks player Pavel Bure, did not rule out a

political career in Russia in the near future.

But he said: "All I can say right now is that in a couple of

weeks I'll be going back to America to start the training camp

working for the Devils. Anything else is only a possibility."

Fetisov believes he did everything as a player but described

his decision as a tough one.

He played nine of his 22 seasons in the NHL and had two

goals and 12 assists in 58 games last season.

Fetisov was captain of Russia's powerful Central Red Army

team.

He was drafted by the Devils in 1983 but was unable to join

the team until the 1989-90 season.

By the time he went to the NHL, Fetisov had already won a

reputation as one of the sport's great players. He won the Gold

Stick Award as Europe's top player three times and was bestowed

the "Honored Masters of Sport" award, the Russian equivalent to

the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He was also a member of the 1980, 1984 and 1988 Olympic

teams for the Soviet Union, winning a silver medal, then two

golds.

In his 546-game NHL career, Fetisov compiled 36 goals and

192 assists for 228 points.

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