A Blast From My Past;
Fun, Nostalgic Trip.
This is one that I knew I would be biased towards from the minute I heard about it, so I tried not to let that weigh too heavily on my score. I’ve been a Red Wings fan my whole life and I remember the Dead Wings era of my youth giving way to the team that dominated the NHL beginning in the mid 90s. Being able to relive that in under two hours, while learning a lot about how the dynasty formed and hiw they changed the way the game was played in North America, was a lot of fun.
It started with a strategy to draft Russian players and hoping to convince them to defect to America and play for Detroit, despite the presence of the Iron Curtain. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see that Jimmy Devellano had a plan and Mike Illitch bought in, but at the time they appeared insane to all the other teams, scouts and front offices. The plan paid off, though it took a while.
I really liked learning the details of how tricky it was to get the guys over here that would change the face of the Red Wings and the NHL as a whole. Sergei Fedorov was first, and all it took was a few clandestine meetings, bags of money and promises of Camaros. Vladimir Konstantinov, whose story ended much sadder than the rest of his team’s, required more finesse, as he was a member of the Russian military and had a family to move to America as well. Learning the details of these transitions and seeing their struggles was really insightful and helped me understand one aspect of what helped them gel together on the ice as one of the most prolific units in the history of the sport.
The importance of the ruthless political climate of the time cannot be understated. In a documentary about hockey, you don’t expect to hear stories of the KGB or concerns of family members being executed, so all of that gives much added weight to the magic happening on the ice.
If you’re a fan of the Wings, this is a must-see. The journey begins with Steve Yzerman’s drafting in 1984 and ends with The Captain hoisting his second consecutive Stanley Cup in 1998. The interviews with crucial team members are great (Darren McCarty is especially fun to watch when recalling the Claude Lemieux fight and his incredible goal against the Flyers), and seeing those moments again on the big screen, along with the animations that accompanied the old stories of the Russian Five was a blast.