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 turn things around more quickly were conscripted servants behind the Iron Curtain. All they had to do to get them was make history by drafting them and then figure out how to get them out of the Soviet Union.
That's when the Wings turned to Keith Gave, the newsman whose clandestine mission to Helsinki, Finland, was the first phase of a years-long series of secret meetings from posh hotel rooms to remote forests around Europe to orchestrate their unlawful departures.
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 stories sound like pulse-pounding spy novels. What unfolded after they were brought together in Detroit by the masterful coach Scotty Bowman is heartwarming and unforgettable.
This audiobook 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 historic victory lap around Red Square and the Kremlin.
The Russian Five did more to bridge Russian and American relations than decades of diplomacy and detente between the White House and the Kremlin. This is their story.