The first time I was in Russia, it was Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in October of 1991, at the time when communism was being dragged down kicking and screaming, and capitalism was about to take hold. It was where statues of Lenin had been toppled only days before, soldiers and tanks were in the streets both there and in Moscow, and history was being made in front of my eyes. It was the beginning of the end of the USSR.
But it wasn’t just history I was seeing. I was also invited to the home of the president of the Leningrad Montreal Canadiens fan club, where he and I and four other Russian hockey fans sat and ate cake, drank tea, and with the help of an interpreter, debated the merits of the Habs, discussed various players around the league, offered opinions on the 1972 Summit Series, and all in all, had a tremendous time.
Then the president gave me this fine letter saying that I was now an official member of the Leningrad Montreal Canadiens fan club. I was the only non-Russian member of the club, and it made me very proud.