The Berlin Wall came down on Nov. 9, 1989. This was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. Eastern Europe was mostly freed from the "Iron Curtain'' imposed by Russia after World War II by the early 1990s.
There are now a couple of generations of American youths being fully introduced to Russia's evil ways through the crazed, murderous actions of leader Vladimir Putin.
As for our sports world, many of those mid-30s and under might be puzzled as to how it can be that basketball player Brittney Griner can continue to be imprisoned in Russia for no reasonable cause.
And younger fans of the Wild, an NHL team that didn't come into existence until a decade after Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited St. Paul on a goodwill and economic mission, also must wonder how there can be questions as to whether star Kirill Kaprizov will be facing true obstacles in his return from Russia for the season ahead.
Those of us who grew up being aware of the evil actions of Russia (through its Soviet Union) are not surprised at all … not with this supreme leader gone nuts.
Dang, we remember what it took for Lou Nanne to get Frantisek Musil here for the North Stars in 1986, and he was a defenseman from Czechoslovakia, not from a warring Russia.
This weekend marked the 36th anniversary of Musil's arrival with Nanne for a rushed news conference at our Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. It was close to midnight on Friday, July 16, 1986, and the group of five that day had flown from Zagreb to London to New York to the Twin Cities.
Group of five? Yes: Nanne, Musil, Ritch Winter (a lawyer from Edmonton), and the KSTP-TV crew of sports anchor Bob Bruce and photographer Denny DeGriselles.
Nanne had drafted Musil in the second round in 1983. A couple of prominent Czech players had been able to defect in recent times. Louie was getting anxious to add the tall, multi-talented defenseman to the North Stars.
"Louie told me two, three months earlier that he was working on bringing Musil here,'' said Robb Leer, then an aggressive sports reporter for KSTP. "He said we could send along a crew, and would have to be ready to go with 24 hours' notice.
"I talked to Mr. [Stan] Hubbard about this. Being the hockey guy that he is, I wasn't surprised when he said, 'We absolutely should do this.' I got the call from Louie, saying we had to be at the airport in New York at 2 p.m., if we wanted to go.
"Bob Bruce, the sports director, said, 'I'll go upstairs and clear it.' He came back and said, 'It's on, but Mr. Hubbard thinks I should go, as the sports anchor.' "
Leer, now in public relations (including for Armory boxing), said: "It was one of my bigger disappointments in the TV business.''
Bruce, now in the investment field with his son in Pittsburgh and Scottsdale, Ariz., said: "Tell Robb it was a disappointment to me when I was back at the station, and he and Eddie Karow were in Lake Placid for The Miracle on Ice.''
Musil had been eliminated from the Czech national team because he refused to sign a document promising not to defect. He had been in contact with Winter earlier, and in mid-July, he called the agent saying he was ready to defect.
The opening had come when Musil was able to get permission to go on vacation with a tour group to Umag, Croatia, a seaside town which was then part of Yugoslavia (Communist, but not Soviet).
Winter had never met Nanne, but gave Louie a heads-up. They took different routes to eventually arrive in Trieste, Italy. They were briefly on the same flight, but didn't realize it.
Winter was able to meet Musil at his hotel in Umag. Later, Nanne and the TV crew also headed for Umag, but Winter and Musil had left for Zagreb 20 minutes earlier to try to get the U.S. consulate to accept Musil as a defector from Czechoslovakia.
"We were driving all over,'' Bruce said. "When we got to Zagreb, we found out Musil and the agent were on their way to Belgrade.''
Nanne: "We got to the consulate in Zagreb and were told, 'They were sent to Belgrade.' I said, 'Get a message. Don't have them show up in Belgrade. They will put him in a reclamation camp for two years with the other refugees.'
"We were able to get them turned around and headed back to Zagreb.''
Bruce: "At one point, Louie said, 'If we have to, we'll put him in the trunk and drive across the Yugoslav border to Italy.' I said, 'This is a great story to be on, Louie, but we don't want to get shot by border guards.' "
That risk became unnecessary. Nanne called Dave Durenberger's office and was able to get the Minnesota senator on the phone. Durenberger smoothed the way for Musil to get the documents needed to fly from Zagreb to London.
Musil played four-plus seasons with the North Stars and 15 in the NHL. He became a scout for the Edmonton Oilers. His son David was taken in the second round by the Oilers when the NHL Draft was held in St. Paul in 2011.
David played only four games in the NHL and he's been playing in the Czech Republic for five seasons. Frantisek is there, too. David's mom, Andrea Holikova, was an international tennis player and NHLer Bobby Holik's older sister.
There was one final drama in the Nanne/Musil adventure for the Channel 5 TV crew.
"Louie had booked three tickets on the Concorde — $2,400 piece,'' Bruce said. "I called Mr. Hubbard and said, 'What should we do?' He said, 'Stay on the story.' "
Joe Schmit, veteran sports anchor at KSTP-TV, said: "You want to get Robbie Leer going? Show him that clip of Bob Bruce joining the champagne toast to Musil on the Concorde.''
Note: There will be one of those with all Wild fandom when Kaprizov is next seen in St. Paul.