Slava Fetisov, Lou Lamoriello, Dr. McMullen and James Bond

Here's couple of interesting stories from Fetisov's book "Overtime" that I believe was never translated in English. If anyone interested in this topic please let me know and I'll translate some more:

Only later I learned that the owner of New Jersey Devils Dr. McMullen dreamed about to have famous players from USSR on his team. He put Kasatonov and myself on NHL draft and since then constantly contacted American embassy in Moscow and Soviet embassy in Washington. He was sending letters, contract offers and used all his influence to pressure soviet leadership. I think, that largely it is his responsibility that Russian players are playing in NHL. When I played for New Jersey I had very good relationship with Dr. McMullen and he told me on many occasions what he did. How he went on the regular basis to soviet embassy and met with ambassador reminding him that he’s waiting for soviet players, so the activity of Dr.McMullen played its role (in bringing Russian players in NHL). As far as I know Lou Lamoriello also constantly met with soviet leadership and was negotiating. During Olympic games in 1988, Lou three or four times flew to Calgary to meet with soviet leadership”

On how Lamoriello was dealing with soviet authorities from SovInterSport (Soviet agency that was in charge of transfer agreement) . Please note that Fetisov played for Red Army Team and thus was considered a ranking officer in Soviet Army and had to be let go by the Army in order to sign with Devils.

“After Calgary, Lamoriello spent 5 days in Moscow to sign a final transfer agreement with SovInterSport and as far as he was concerned everything was hashed out and it was just a matter of signing and there is not going to be problems with an Army. That day I met my future General Manager for the first time. I was brought to SovInterSport office and was told to wear my army uniform with all my medals and regalia. Lou later told me that he was shocked to see me like this because I looked like a Russian general from the Bond movie. I was introduced by the head of SovInterSport “Here’s you manager from New Jersey” . By the way on the way to SovInterSport I was told by another official: “Tell Lamoriello that you’re not ready, tell him that you still want to play for Red Army”. I looked at Lamoriello’s face and I saw how confused he was, he came thinking that he’s going to sign a player and after 5 minutes of meeting with him – I was taken away, put in a car and Lou was told that I have to get back to my wife.

In September of 1988 I had a tournament in West Germany. During that time, Lamoriello with the help of translator called my home on the daily basis and was asking how I was doing and when I’ll come over. I didn’t know what to tell him, “They should release me (from the army) any day now”. For Lamoriello, the notion was completely insane, how long does it take to make a release, especially since he had an agreement not just with anybody but with the Minister of Sports ??? It was so difficult to explain to Lou how soviet yoke system works. So Lou came to Germany, in the town where tournament took place. He tells me to leave for US, straight from Germany, saying that visa and ticket is taken care of and all I need to do is to sign a contract and we’ll go to Munich and then fly out to US. The matter of your entree in the US is taken care of with State Department. I told him that I can’t..... the soviet authority just waiting for exactly this, so they can start a smear campaign and drag my name thru the mud and I cannot leave my wife and my aging parents dealing with this by themselves. He promises me that he would make sure that my parents and my wife will be brought over as well. I wanted to go but I refused, I had to do it the right way, I could not give them (authorities) the reason to chastise me. Lou gave me money and supported me since then both morally and financially.

Translated some more:

After the tournament in Germany I came back to Moscow and went to check on the status of my release papers from the Army. They told me that all papers are ready to be signed but then I find out from other sources that these papers never existed and they just making a fool out of me. So, I write another request that I thankful for everything to the Army in which I served from the private to a Major but as of now I want to be released from duty… Right now, I understand how naïve this was, but back then I was grasping onto my last straw. So, I get summoned to the main political office in the Red Army, I don’t remember the name of the general that saw me, but he tells me: “Why do you want to go to America ? Tell me, you’re a major now, look how many medals you have. You have a one bedroom apartment in a center of the city, you have your own car… We can make you a Lieutenant Coronel If you want. So why are you want to leave, explain to me. “ So I’m trying to explain: “I played in USSR for a very long time, and now I have a chance to play in the US, I would never have this opportunity again, tomorrow I’ll get injured and nobody would want me. And now I have a chance to learn their hockey”. He replies – “We always beat them, so why do you want to learn their hockey? We’ll make you a Coronel and you’ll be coaching or if you want we’ll make you a Head of Sport Games, you have such a future”. I keep insisting: “You see, from professional stand point I’m interested to see how hockey is being played over there, how players are training. It’s completely different life there, I want to learn the language. Plus for the money that you will get for me, you can buy decent uniforms for our team”. We spent more than 1 hour arguing. Finally, he looked at me thru slightly squeezed eyes and started screaming from the top of his lungs: “You only have one goal: make money and get rich. All you want is to sell out for these dollars. Get out and think hard, I hope that you re-consider and take back your request to leave the Army”.

Note: back then, no Soviet citizen abroad could not make more money than the Soviet ambassador in that country. So for example, if the ambassador’s official salary was 100K per year and if Fetisov had 1MIL per year contract – by soviet law, he could only keep 100K and the rest he was obligated to return to Soviet embassy.

Lamoriello called me again and I asked him “what should I do?”. He said that I need to keep playing, they promised him that they will come to a decision on my status soon. Then I started to notice a “tail” following my car every time I go from and to a practice. Finally, they tell me “we’re going to have a North American Tour with Red Army, everything will be decided there, especially since we’re playing with New Jersey. After that game, you’ll stay there and will finish the season with the Devils. Lou calls – “Yes, we have this agreement, you’ll finish the season with our team. They asked us to send them uniforms as a sign of good will”. So I play in New Jersey for a first time on January 3 1989, as a member of CSKA (Red Army team). But days before that game, in the hotel in New Jersey there was a meeting to decide my fate yet again between Lamoriello, the head of SovInterSport and Victor Tikhonov (the head coach). 2 hours have passed and translator calls me: “come down (from the room)”. He meets me in the lobby and says: “ They’re not leaving you here. Tikhonov said that you must return to the USSR”. From that minute on, I understood that the war for my independence has begun.

Back in Moscow I understood that I will encounter lies from every direction so I decided that I have to act publicly, especially thanks to Gorbachev’s glasnost’ I had this opportunity to act thru the press and television without being persecuted. The war was open but it cost the half of my life. The beginning of my fight against Soviet System led to long discussions with Chess Champion Garry Kasparov with whom I became close friends to this day. Garry told me: “You are a person that can open the road to the West to the Soviet athletes. Let’s create a good group from young lawyers that specialize in the Soviet and International Law to make your departure absolutely legal” . So, I made an address to the press and thus the work for opening the doors to the West has began, moreover it was a struggle for human rights. Tikhonov dismissed me from the team(but not from the army and assigned me to a desk job) and I stopped getting playing practice. The only time on the ice I had was with the Amateur Team. Every single day I was summoned to Political Department surrounded by three Coronels, political leadership of CSKA and they were yelling that I’m a traitor and that I would never see America over and over again. I sat there and kept repeating “I want to leave the Army”. They were waiting for me to give up. At that time, they allowed me to skate with the 2nd string Army players in hopes that I would give up, but I didn’t and they forbid me to skate yet again and completely banned me from the team. That was the last time that I skated with CSKA.

Then I had a meeting with Defense Minister. There were 3 generals, Tikhonov and myself, security is everywhere. I got to the office, it was huge as a soccer field and I was told to wear my army uniform. Minister comes towards me and starts yelling out profanities “Why are you standing not at attention ?”. But I never did, in reality I was never an army person, I never knew how to stand at attention. Yazov (Defense Minister) yells that I sold out to Americans for dollars and that I sold out our Motherland and things like that. I reply that I served my country truthfully and I ask only one thing to let me leave the Army, and comrade Defense Minister must obey my wishes by law. He replies: “I will not only dismiss you, I will send you to Gulag”. After a while he promises me a 2 bedroom apartment and that he will make me a Coronel only if I take back my request to leave the Army. I refuse, but I was never as scared in my entire life as I was back on that day.

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