When the Detroit Red Wings were rebooting their franchise after more than two decades of relative futility, they knew the best place to find world-class players who could help turn things around more quickly were conscripted servants behind the Iron Curtain.
All they had to do then was make history by drafting them, then figure out how to get them out. That’s when the Wings turned to Keith Gave, the newsman whose clandestine mission to Helsinki, Finland, was the first phase of a of a years-long series of secret meetings from posh hotel rooms to remote forests around Europe to orchestrate their unlawful departures from the Soviet Union.
One defection created an international incident and made global headlines. Another player faked cancer, thanks to the Wings’ extravagant bribes to Russian doctors, including a big American car. Another player who wasn’t quite ready to leave yet felt like he was being kidnapped by an unscrupulous agent. Two others were outcast when they stood up publicly against the Soviet regime, winning their freedom to play in the NHL only after years of struggle.
They are the Russian Five: Sergei Fedorov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Konstantinov, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Igor Larionov. Their individual stories read like pulse-pounding spy novels. The story that unfolded after they were brought together in Detroit by the masterful coach Scotty Bowman is unforgettable.
This story includes details never before revealed, and by the man who was there every step of the way – from the day Detroit drafted its first two Soviets in 1989 until they raised the Stanley Cup in 1997, then took it to Moscow for a victory lap around Red Square and the Kremlin.
The Russian Five did more to bridge Russian and American relations than decades of diplomacy and détente between the White House and the Kremlin. This is their story.
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Keith Gave spent six years in the United States Army as a Russian linguist working for the National Security Agency during the Cold War. Nothing could have better prepared him for a career as a sports writer covering hockey for the Detroit Free Press. His 15 years with the newspaper were the highlight of a career spanning nearly four decades in the news industry. He also served as writer/producer for the soon-to-be-released documentary film, “The Russian Five.” He lives in Roscommon, Michigan, where he continues to write when he’s not sneaking off to cast a fly to the trout on his home waters of the Au Sable River.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For the first 75 years or so of its existence, the National Hockey League consisted mostly of Canadian and American players. Slowly, European players started playing during the 1970s. But when five players from Russia who played for the famed Red Army team helped restore glory to the Detroit Red Wings in the 1990’s, the hockey world took notice. The stories behind these players and the extraordinary danger to get some of them to Detroit is captured in this very good book by Keith Gave. As a journalist who spoke Russian, Gave had a role with Red Wings personnel by traveling to Helsinki to speak with one of the players. Because of this, he was able to provide a viewpoint that makes the stories terrific. They would be intriguing enough as some of the methods used to get the players out of Russia were straight out of Cold War spy novels, such as faking a cancer diagnosis for Vladimir Konstintinov. These pages were even better than the hockey passages, which were decent but often repetitive. The reader will be reminded several times, for just two examples, that the New Jersey Devils swept the Red Wings in the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals and that the author introduced the reader to the “Green Unit” several times. The chapters on the hockey team felt like they were previous articles put together for the book instead of written as one story. That doesn’t take away from the riveting stories of the five Russians, the danger they faced when leaving Russia and the sheer joy they felt when they and the Red Wings won back to back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998. The latter one was especially touching as the team brought the Cup to Konstintinov in a wheelchair. He, along with a team masseuse, were seriously injured in a car accident soon after the 1997 victory and the team wanted to let him know that he was still a part of the team.Those stories are why this book should be on the shelves of all hockey fans, especially Red Wings fans
I don't read or even like books about sports teams and athletes. Don't know why I decided to read this one. I moved to Detroit 15- months ago. Hearing about the book and the documentary peaked my interest. The primary reason was the hope to learn about the life's and defections of the Russian Five. This book delivered what I wanted out of it. Great story and good read. Highly recommend it for a change of pace from what you might usually read.
Excellent Book that captures details that we would have never found our.
The book gives a view of the Russian Five that fans of the Red Wings and hockey didn't know when they were still playing here.