The Detroit Free Press has posted an excerpt from former Free Press scribe Keith Gave’s new book, The Russian Five, and Gave tells the story of his clandestine meeting with Sergei Fedorov Vladimir Konstantinov in Helsinki, Finland:
A month or so after the annual National Hockey League entry draft, in mid-July 1989, a time when most folks involved in the league were enjoying some respite between seasons, my phone rang. Jim Lites was on the line inviting me to lunch. Strange timing, I thought, to hear from the executive vice president of the Detroit Red Wings, 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, I’d listen, we’d agree to disagree, and it was over.
The next day, we were sitting across from one another at the recently renovated Elwood Bar and Grill, which at the time was across Woodward Avenue from the Fox Theatre.
“Just let me say right up front that if I cross any lines here or make you uncomfortable in any way, I’ll stop and that will be the end of it,” he said.
I raised my eyebrows.
“We’re prepared to pay considerably — serious money,” he said. “We can assure you exclusivity to any stories, book rights, you name it.”
Continued, and here’s a one-minute clip discussing the Russians’ slow but steady trickle onto the Red Wings’ roster: