As told to: Dave BidiniBefore going to Russia to play, I did some homework about the league and the place, but I was still scared. I was going to make more money than I was making in the minors, but there was a lot of uncertainty. I agreed to a contract with Moscow Dynamo. They took me to the team’s compound, which was called a basa. I waited for them to fulfill my contract and give me the money that I was promised up front, but they didn’t want to pay me. They tried to trick me into giving them a free tryout to see if I fit into their plans. For three days I had no phone or internet. I watched the team play, ate Russian food, and talked to nobody.
When it was my turn to go get my money, I walked in to find an old lady sitting at a small table with a mail bag full of 100 dollar bills (all American), a money counter and a list of the players and their salaries.
I ended up speaking with an ex-teammate who played for Moscow Spartak in the Super League, about 30 minutes down the road. He told his team about my dispute with Dynamo and they said they would honour my contract . On way to see them in a taxi, the president of Dynamo came running out with what he said was my money. I told him it was too late and I was gone to my second team.
During the season, we went to the rink to get paid . We went to the second floor of the arena, which I didn’t even knew existed. The whole team lined up outside of this little room that was no bigger than a closet. When it was my turn to go get my money, I walked in to find an old lady sitting at a small table with a mail bag full of 100 dollar bills (all American), a money counter and a list of the players and their salaries. Behind her was a big scary looking mob guy for security. It was like a 1960s movie. I was scared and took my money straight to the general manager’s office, where I put it in a safe to take to the bank another day. I went downtown for a few beers and while I was there my apartment was broken into. Most of my personal belongings were taken. Books were taken off the shelves and all of the drawers — even the freezer door — were open. They knew it was pay day and they were looking for the money. Thank god I decided not to take the cash — thousands of dollars of it — home. The thieves must have had a connection with the team. They knew I had money and they wanted it.
The cops showed up in their 1960s uniforms with machine guns hanging around their necks. A lady officer came in with a briefcase and took out some dust and was throwing it everywhere looking for fingerprints. Through a translator, the police officers asked me if I had anything to drink. I said I had few beers and they accepted and drank my beer. The cops left and I never heard another thing about the break in. I was scared shitless and worried about how I would get my money to the bank. I talked to my friend from Halifax — he owned the Hungry Duck, one of the first post-Communist bars — and he arranged for some mob guys with guns — three of them — to take me to the bank (a fourth guy with a gun was waiting for us when we showed up). On that trip, my heart was pounding. I joke about it now but that’s how scary it was.
DAVE BIDINI is the co-creator of ‘Slapshot Diaries’ as well as a writer/musician/columnist from Toronto and the author of 12 books.
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