The Russian Five: A Story of Espionage, Defection, Bribery and Courage

The Russian Five: A Story of Espionage, Defection, Bribery and Courage



The Pequod Review:

Keith Gave’s book The Russian Five begins with an astonishing personal story: In 1990, as a Russian-speaking journalist for the Detroit Free Press, Gave was asked by the Detroit Red Wings to attend a USSR/Finland hockey game in Helsinki. After the game, he was to use his journalist credentials to gain access to the locker room and slip a confidential note to Sergei Fedorov and Vladimir Konstantinov letting the players know the Red Wings had drafted them and wanted them to play in America. (At the time, Fedorov and Konstantinov were trapped in the Soviet Union and not permitted to immigrate to the US to play hockey.) Gave was successful and this started a chain of events that led to both players escaping the Soviet team a few years later in the middle of the night when they came to the US for an exhibition game. This is just an amazing story, and one not well-known even by many hockey fans.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book descends into a rambling and poorly-edited fandom of the Red Wings’ hockey success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It's frankly a lost opportunity, since Gave could have used his initial trip to tell a broader story about Russian hockey players defecting to the US, overall American/Soviet relations, or even the ethics of a reporter's participation in an assignment like the one proposed by the Red Wings. Better instead to watch the extraordinary 2014 documentary film Red Army.