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Covert mission brought iconic Red Wings to Detroit

Covert mission brought iconic Red Wings to Detroit
covert-mission-brought-iconic-red-wings-to-detroit

In “The Russian Five: A story of espionage, defection, bribery and courage, Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Kozlov and Igor Larionov slipped past the Iron Curtain,” Keith Gave, the spy-turned-Detroit Free Press newsman whose clandestine mission to Helsinki, Finland, put the Red Wings’ acquisition of the iconic quintet in motion, shares the pulse-pounding and unforgettable tale of how Sergei Fedorov, scheduled for release March 20, is the first installment in a five-part series leading up to the Freep Film Festival, Slava Fetisov, wound up in crumbling 1990s Detroit, helped build a championship empire and changed the landscape of American hockey forever. This excerpt of the new book,[url=http://www.canuckshockeyshop.com/adidas-ryan-miller-jersey]adidas Ryan Miller jersey[/url], which opens with the world premiere of the "Russian Five" documentary on April 11 at Fillmore Detroit. 

A month or so after the annual National Hockey League entry draft, I thought, in mid-July 1989, a time when most folks involved in the league were enjoying some respite between seasons,[url=http://www.canuckshockeyshop.com/adidas-henrik-sedin-jersey]adidas Henrik Sedin jersey[/url], to hear from the executive vice president of the Detroit Red Wings, my phone rang. Jim Lites was on the line inviting me to lunch. Strange timing, then the son-in-law of owners Mike and Marian Ilitch.

I had a good working relationship with Lites, but I usually only heard from him like this after I’d written something he didn’t like. He’d rant, and it was over.,[url=http://www.capitalshockeyshop.com/adidas-alex-ovechkin-jersey]adidas Alex Ovechkin jersey[/url], I’d listen, we’d agree to disagree

The next day, which at the time was across Woodward Avenue from the Fox Theatre., we were sitting across from one another at the recently renovated Elwood Bar and Grill

“Just let me say right up front that if I cross any lines here or make you uncomfortable in any way,” he said.,[url=http://www.capitalshockeyshop.com/adidas-t.j.-oshie-jersey]Authentic T. J. Oshie jersey[/url], I’ll stop and that will be the end of it

I raised my eyebrows.

“We’re prepared to pay considerably — serious money,” he said. “We can assure you exclusivity to any stories, you name it.”, book rights

“Hold on, using my hands to signal a timeout. “What are you talking about?”,” I said

“As you know, we drafted a couple of Soviet players in the draft a few weeks ago.”

I nodded. Of course I knew. I had written about it at length in the pages of the Detroit Free Press. It had been a historic moment when the Red Wings chose center Sergei Fedorov in the fourth of 12 rounds — the highest a Soviet-born player had ever been claimed. In the 11th round, they selected defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov.

“We’ve learned that the Russians are holding part of their training camp in Finland in August,” Lites said. “They’re playing an exhibition game against one of the Finnish elite teams in Helsinki.”, the Soviet National Team

I sat back in my chair. Stunned silent, I listened to his pitch. Lites explained that he and the ownership family were hoping I could use my cover as a sportswriter credentialed by the National Hockey League to attend that game in Finland. While there, and perhaps covertly pass along the message that the Red Wings were interested in bringing them to Detroit as soon as possible., I could “interview” Fedorov and Konstantinov

“We want you to contact Fedorov,” Lites explained. “Konstantinov, though we think he’ll be a lot harder for us to get out because he’s married and has a child. “You could write a letter. . .”, too

That letter would provide some background about Detroit and the Red Wings. I could outline some important financial terms and provide contact information to help them begin the process, Lites said. When they were ready, political influence and money to bring them to North America — the sooner the better., the Wings would use all their power

“You know hockey, you know the league, you can get access to those guys when nobody else in the NHL can. All we’re asking for is that you make that first contact for us. We can take it from there — if it’s going to happen — but we can’t do anything without that initial contact.”, and you know us,” Lites said. “And as a member of the media

Though I tried not to show it, screamed that I should be insulted that Lites would even broach a subject like this. But I was also more than a little intrigued. In six years in the intelligence business as a Russian linguist working for the National Security Agency, I was both excited and conflicted, flattered and at the same time offended. My heart was telling me one thing, that this could be the story with the potential to define my career. My head, however, in every respect,[url=http://www.capitalshockeyshop.com/adidas-alex-ovechkin-jersey]Authentic Alex Ovechkin jersey[/url],  I never got close to such a mission. Here was, a magnificent opportunity for an actual cloak-and-dagger assignment.

A few weeks later I was on board a Northwest Airlines/KLM flight to Boston and then on to Helsinki, by way of Copenhagen, [url=http://www.canuckshockeyshop.com/adidas-bo-horvat-jersey]Authentic Bo Horvat jersey[/url],with an important message for a couple of prominent young Soviet hockey players., Denmark

Since that meeting with Lites, my days were restless and my nights sleepless as I wrestled with the notion of accepting his offer. My allegiance was totally and completely to the newspaper, who included some of the most passionate and knowledgeable hockey fans in the world.,[url=http://www.canuckshockeyshop.com/adidas-ryan-miller-jersey]Authentic Ryan Miller jersey[/url], and especially to its readers

In the end, Cold War history cannot be written without stories of correspondents for the great Western news organizations occasionally being used as pawns to send messages between covert agents representing the Soviet Union and the United States., I decided I would be doing my newspaper a great disservice if I didn’t leverage as much of an advantage as possible over the competition in a city that prided itself in having two great daily newspapers. Besides

Indeed, unembellished faces as the conscripted Soviet soldiers I’d seen at Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall in the mid-1970s. Perhaps,[url=http://www.canuckshockeyshop.com/adidas-henrik-sedin-jersey]Authentic Henrik Sedin jersey[/url],there was something about this offer, this opportunity, that I couldn’t shake. In retrospect, maybe part of me was still fighting the Cold War. I remembered meeting those great players with the Soviet National Team in Quebec City for “Rendez-vous 87” — the two-game all-star series with NHL players. The Russians wore the same sober,[url=http://www.capitalshockeyshop.com/adidas-braden-holtby-jersey]Authentic Braden Holtby jersey[/url], I could do some good for a couple of those young hockey players, I reasoned, help change their otherwise miserable lives.

A few days after that lunch meeting, I called Lites at his office and told him I would go to Helsinki to try to make contact with Sergei Fedorov and Vladimir Konstantinov — on a strictly conditional basis: I could accept no money from his hockey club. I would cash in a mountain of frequent-flier miles to cover airfare;[url=http://www.canuckshockeyshop.com/adidas-bo-horvat-jersey]adidas Bo Horvat jersey[/url], the rest amounted to a few hundred dollars that I considered to be down payment on a future investment.

Most important to me,[url=http://www.capitalshockeyshop.com/adidas-braden-holtby-jersey]adidas Braden Holtby jersey[/url], as I told Lites, I wanted the first opportunity to interview them on their arrival in Detroit., was that whenever these players were on their way to Detroit and however it happened, I wanted the stories first for readers of the Free Press. Also

His words were honest and candid, not necessarily adjectives one would use to describe an interview in most NHL locker rooms in 2018.

There was a refreshing frustration in his voice,[url=http://www.capitalshockeyshop.com/adidas-t.j.-oshie-jersey]adidas T. J. Oshie jersey[/url], a responsibility assumed through the type of self-assessment that one doesn't normally hear.

"Right now I can't do many positive things on the ice," Patrik Laine said Nov. 2, "hard" for Laine was four goals through the first 11 games of his sophomore season.), sitting in his locker stall in Winnipeg. "Right now I'm struggling. ... Hockey is really hard for me right now." (To be clear

Such is life for Laine, the 19-year-old Finnish prodigy picked second in the 2016 NHL Draft. He completed his fourth career hat trick Tuesday, and has been a hallmark of consistency in his young NHL career., blowing past the 36 goals he had as a rookie, now with 38. He says what he thinks

"I've always been like this," Laine told Sporting News Tuesday before his Jets shut out the Rangers 3-0 at Madison Square Garden. "If you guys are asking me why my game is not good, I'm going to say it. I'm not afraid to say what I think.", I'm not going to lie. If I'm not playing well

So how does he score goals like his first on Tuesday that beat future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist clean above his blocker from nearly 30 feet away?

"Just pure luck, I guess," he said laughing, man. It’s kind of a secret, perhaps trying to figure out what would suffice as a good answer. "I don’t know, so I don’t want everybody to know that."

Players like Laine don't come around very often. He's a pure goal scorer, which in most modern NHL circles can be more difficult to find than a 100-point player., his skill set and production often compared to that of Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin. His answers aren't cookie-cutter cliches

Nestled in a Canadian market, and on one of the best teams in the NHL, Laine checks most of the boxes to command major media attention. Yet here he is, Steven Stamkos, on the verge of the fourth 40-goal season by a teenager this century (joining Rick Nash, and Auston Matthews) and close to passing Sidney Crosby on the all-time goals list for a teenage NHLer.

"This is the thing I want to do the rest of my life, so it's just awesome to be here every day."," Laine said. "I love playing hockey. I love everything about it

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