The 1996-97 season saw Fedotenko play in Finland for a variety of teams associated with TPS of Turku, including the TPS U18 team, the TPS U20 club and Kiekko-67 in Division I. He also played for Turku HT in the Division II playoffs. Internationally, Fedotenko again appeared in both the European U18 championships as well as the World Juniors B pool, scoring 3 goals in 7 games.
For the 1997-98 season, Fedotenko played even farther from home, as he migrated to Canada and spent the entire season with the Melfort Mustangs of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League where he averaged nearly a point per game wtih 35 goals and 66 points in 68 games.
It has his fourth country in four years for Fedotenko, born on this date in 1979, when he played for the Sioux City Musketeers in the United States Hockey League, where he erupted for 43 goals and 77 points in 55 games to finish second in league scoring.
Fedotenko went undrafted and was signed by the Philadelphia Flyers organization for the 1999-00 season. He spent the majority of his first professional season with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League (17 goals and 51 points in 57 games) as well as 8 games with the Trenton Devils of the ECHL.
Fedotenko started the season with 8 games for the Phantoms before making his NHL debut with the Flyers on October 24, 2000. He wasted no time establishing himself as a full-time NHLer, playing in 74 games and scoring 16 goals and 36 points, good for seventh on the club.
He played another 78 games for the Flyers in 2001-02, scoring another 17 goals and 26 points as well as being a +15. During the 2002 Olympics, the NHL took a break from it's schedule for the First Round, but not the Preliminary Round. Fedotenko was able to arrive in time of Ukraine's final game, an essential 4-2 win over France, but an earlier 1-0 loss to Belarus before he could arrive meant the end of the competition for the Ukrainians after just one game for Fedotenko.
At the 2002 NHL Draft, Fedotenko was traded, along with two second round draft choices to the Tampa Bay Lightning for their first round pick (4th overall). Over the next two seasons, the steady Fedotenko gave the Lightning more of the same with 18 goals and 32 points in 2002-03 followed by 17 goals and 39 points in 2003-04.
In the 2004 postseason, Fedotenko got hot and was a key player in the Lightning's run through the playoffs, tying for the team lead in goals with 12 as the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in seven games over the Calgary Flames, with Fedotenko starring as he scored both Tampa Bay goals in a narrow 2-1 Game 7 win.
Unlike many NHL players who either played in a European league or a North American minor league, Fedotenko sat out 2004-05 when the NHL season was cancelled. He returned to Tampa Bay in fine form, setting career highs with 26 goals and 41 points.
His production dropped in 2006-07 to 12 goals and 32 points to conclude his time with the Lightning, as his contract expired and he signed for the 2007-08 season with the New York Islanders. During his only season on Long Island, Fedotenko scored 16 goals and 33 points in 67 games.
A free agent once again, this time Fedotenko chose to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins beginning in 2008-09, where he contributed his customary 16 goals and 39 points, his sixth season of between 16 and 18 goals and scoring in the 30's in points.
During the playoffs, Fedotenko scored 7 goals and 14 points in 24 games, tied for fourth on the team in both categories, as the Penguins would defeat the Detroit Red Wings for the second Stanley Cup of Fedotenko's career.
He had another 30 point season for Pittsburgh in 2009-10 before leaving for the New York Rangers as a free agent for the 2010-11 season. He would play two seasons for New York's other team, with 10 goals and 25 points followed by 9 goals and 20 points, ending a run of ten seasons of double digit goals.
For the 2012-13 season, Fedotenko returned home to Ukraine to play for HC Donbass, the only team from Ukraine during their first season in the predominately Russian Kontinental Hockey League while the NHL season was delayed by labor issues. After 33 games, the NHL's labor issues were resolved and Fedotenko returned to his original club, the Flyers. In 47 games, he contributed 4 goals and 13 points.
Before the 2013-14 season, Fedotenko signed a three year contract to return to Donetsk, Ukraine to rejoin HC Donbass as their team captain. He would play in 46 games, scoring 7 goals and 17 points.
But before the 2014-15 season could begin, the political situation in Ukraine became unsettled, with protests in Kiev resulting in the exile of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, who favored closer ties with Russia rather than the European Union.
The Ukraine oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk, similar to a state or province in North America, known collectively as the Donbass region, are located farthest east and are populated heavily with Russians who moved into the area during the days of the Soviet Union. Following the annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine by Russia, pro-Russian protests broke out in Donbass, which then led to self-declared republics in both Donetsk and Luhansk. This eventually escalated into an armed conflict between the Ukraine government and the separatist forces of the republics, who favor close ties with Russia.
With the region on the verge of a state of war, Fedotenko returned to North America after an injury cost him a chance to play for Ukraine at the 2014 World Championships.
"The season ended and I was eager to get home (to Tampa, Florida), just get out of there and get home to my family and make sure I was safe. That was the top priority at the end of the season," Fedotenko said, following the two of the last three home playoff games scheduled for Donetsk being relocated to Bratislava, Slovakia due to concerns over the worsening situation in Ukraine.
Two days after Fedotenko flew back to the United States, the Donetsk airport was closed and has since been reduced to rubble by prolonged bombings.
Eventually Russian armed forces moved into the Donbass region of Ukraine to support the separatists and war broke out. There were cease fires agreed to, none of which lasted very long and the damage to the area was extensive. All the unrest and uncertainty, which including the looting and arson of the team's Druzhba Arena, led to HC Donbass having to suspend operations for the 2014-15 season.
Additionally, the 2015 IIHF Division IA World Championships scheduled to take place in Donetsk were moved to Krakow, Poland.
Fedotenko got an offer of a tryout with the New Jersey Devils, but did not make the team's roster. He then signed a professional tryout contract with the Iowa Wild of the AHL. He eventually played just 13 games with Iowa in 2014-15, but returned to the team for the current 2015-16 season. His return to the NHL looks to be a long shot, as to date he has only played in 16 of Iowa's 41 games.
Today's featured jersey is a 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins Ruslan Fedotenko jersey as worn the season Fedotenko won his second Stanley Cup.
The Penguins began wearing this style jersey for the 2007-08 season and continue to wear it through today, although word is the club will have new jerseys for next season, perhaps bringing to an end the use of the pale Las Vegas Gold in favor of a return to the bright yellow gold the club wore from 1980 to 2002.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2000-01 Philadelphia Flyers Ruslan Fedotenko jersey. as worn during his rookie season in the NHL. The Flyers first introduced this black jersey as an alternate for the 1997-98 season. It was promoted to the team's road jersey for 2001-02 when their orange road jerseys were discontinued after the 2000-01 season. It remained in use through the 2006-07 season when a new black jersey debuted in the new Reebok Edge style.