Slava Fetisov was one of the greatest defensemen the game has ever seen, but the Hall of Famer’s story of growing up in the Soviet Union before he became one the first Russian stars to play in the NHL was largely untold until last year when two documentaries chronicling his journey—Red Army and Of Miracles and Men—were released.
In the latter, Fetisov took his daughter, Anastasia, to Lake Placid, NY, to show her where the famed “Miracle on Ice”—when a U.S. team made up mostly of college kids upset Fetisov and the mighty Soviet hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics—from his perspective.
SI.com recently caught up with Anastasia, 24, to talk about the one year anniversary of the documentaries, the “Miracle” and Russian players in the NHL.
SI.com: In Of Miracles and Men, you and your dad took a trip to Lake Placid. What was it like going back there with him?
Anastasia Fetisov: It was really new to me because I had never been to Lake Placid before. He was honestly very closed off about telling me that story, initially, so I found out most of it being there. It was something that always hurt him, for a long time. He didn’t succeed in the way he wanted to and the way he’s used to. They were unbeatable, basically. They expected something so different than what happened, so it was such a bad memory for him and generally a bad experience for him. That was really surreal for me to find his whole story out.
SI.com: What kind of feedback have you received about the documentaries since they aired last year?
AF: Everybody’s loved it. A lot of people, especially here in Russia, had this perception that my dad was some sort of untouchable person, that he was this harsh political figure and then they saw he’s a regular person. They didn’t know what his history was so it was really heartwarming because everyone reached out to me. A lot of people reached out to me on social media too and just said how great the documentary was. They were just huge fans of hockey and the Russian Five and that it was nice to see a different side to the Miracle on Ice story.
I didn’t expect so many people to see it, honestly. It just felt like a small project that we were filming at the time.
SI.com: So even though your dad is a sports legend in Russia, people are scared of him?
AF: Yes. They think he’s a powerful, frightening guy who can break you in half like a stick, but he’s not at all like that. He’s like a cuddly bear. We even call him the Russian Bear. Everybody’s so intimidated by him at first but he’s always so warm and welcoming. My whole life, he always reminded me to be friendly and smile. He’s a man of few words and sometimes he’ll just randomly be like, “be friendly!” (holds out her finger). But if I’m in a bad mood or something, I just always remember that. As soon as he opens up, he’s such a sweet guy, and everyone saw that (in the documentaries).
SI.com: You grew up in the U.S. but your dad was on the Soviet team, so how do you look at the Miracle on Ice?
AF: My dad always said it was just a bunch of college kids, nobody expected it, and his team was kind of tired, and they lived under those circumstances, so they weren’t prepared. It was completely unexpected. He’s like ‘I’m not making excuses, but they (the Americans) got really lucky.’ In my perspective, I always have felt that these were kids that got lucky. It’s not like they trained as hard as the Russians did or anything. It was like, well, good for them.
SI.com: Have you ever seen Miracle?
AF: No, never actually seen it. I’ve seen parts, but that’s it. When it came out, everyone was like “Your dad’s name is in it, that must’ve sucked, the Russians lost, that was such a shame,” stuff like that, but I never really wanted to get into it because I only heard bad stuff about Russian guys and I’m patriotic in that way.
SI.com: Your dad had such a storied hockey career. Is that ever discussed when you and your dad meet up?
AF: Not really. When we get together, we just usually talk about how we’re doing, how life is. It comes up in the company of some of his friends, Of Miracles and Men and Red Army do, and they talk about how incredible it is that somebody finally decided to film something about his story.
SI.com: What do you think of some of the current Russian players in the NHL like Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Vladimir Tarasenko?
AF: They’ve become very Americanized. They have the skill they were trained with here, they’ve definitely held onto that because they’re some of the best in the league. But cultural-wise, they’re very Americanized, like they’re not as Russian as they used to be.
I think they’re all great guys. I know some of them personally and they’re all sweet. They’re obviously great players, incredibly dedicated to the sport and that’s why I think a certain few of them go so far. You’ve got to bust your ass to make it to where they have, and they have. That’s why their careers have soared and they’re at the top.
SI.com: What’s your favorite NHL team?
AF: I really like the Penguins and the Rangers. I’ve also had a soft spot for the Devils because of (former Devils GM) Lou (Lamoriello). He helped my Dad so much and he was there for so many years. I also live in New York and go to Rangers games with my friends. And then the Penguins because I’m friends with Malkin. I’ve known him for several years now and am really proud of him.
SI.com: Do you play hockey yourself?
AF: No, I don’t. I ice skate for fun but my dad never wanted me to play. He wanted me to do more feminine stuff, so I did ballet, horseback riding, tennis, swimming, that kind of stuff.
SI.com: So what are you up to now?
AF: I started a production company with my friend called NLT Film. She’s a screenwriter, and I liked two of her ideas for short films, so right now we’re sending them out to festivals. We finished production on those at the end of last year, and I applied to grad school at NYU and Columbia for film, so I'm waiting to hear back on that. I applied for directing and cinematography. We’re also trying to make a feature film right now.