Nail Yakupov is awesome. I’m not talking about his on-ice talents, which are pretty damn good; I’m referring to his ability to be honest. He isn’t walking cliché, and I hope the Oilers don’t try and neuter his vocal cords when he eventually suits up for them.

In case you missed it here is the article from Rsport that got some Canadians fired up.

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Yakupov was asked his thoughts regarding the Canada/Russia game on New Year’s Eve. 

"I understand that I will have to keep a cool head and ignore provocations. Especially against the Canadians. These guys play dirty. We got used to that, we played a few games in the North America, so our team is ready."

There is nothing wrong with what he said. Nothing. In his eyes he feels the Canadians play dirty, and Boone Jenner’s three-game suspension suggests Yakupov is right. I like rivalries in hockey, we don’t have enough of them anymore, but I’m worried we won’t have many in the future if people get upset over calling our junior team dirty.

What Yakupov deems "dirty" is likely much different than what I or you think is "dirty" on the ice. And that is what’s great about it. If anything his comments just made the December 31st meeting a bit more enticing. Oiler fans should have no problem getting fired up to watch their 2011 and 2012 first overall draft picks go head-to-head, and Yakupov’s comments only enhanced the Canada/Russia rivalry.

Rather than rip Yakupov, I want to applaud him for being honest, and being savvy enough to toss out a little pre-tournament jab.

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I was more confused by Don Cherry’s twitter response/rant to Yakupov’s comments. Yakupov’s comment was pretty straightforward, while Cherry, In a series of five tweets, was all over the map.  

I see where Nail Yakupov said Canadian hockey players are dirty. Let me see… We let him take a Canadian kids spot in the Canadian Hockey League, let him learn his hockey in our program, treat him royally, give him great coaching so he can go number one overall and he calls us dirty. Canadian people are no naïve, no let me change that word to dumb. We love everybody and everybody hates us. Like I said, when you hear Russians cheering for Germans you have to wonder. And the kid Yakupov is just being honest as that’s how he feels about us. I could care less what Nail thinks of us, what bugs me, he took a Canadian kids spot in the Canadian Hockey League.

Last I checked, when Canada hosts the WJC the fans usually cheer for the underdog in games not involving Canada. Last year in Edmonton fans cheered for Denmark, and in Calgary they rooted for Latvia. This isn’t new. Did Grapes expect the Russian fans to cheer for Canada to continue to kick the crap out of Germany?

I understand if some don’t want imports taking jobs from Canadian kids in the CHL, but don’t fool yourself Mr. Cherry the CHL wants the top imports playing in the CHL because the leagues get money when those top players are drafted into the NHL. The CHL wants these kids as bad as the kids want to play here, and sometimes even more considering how much some top-end Euros have allegedly been paid to come play in the CHL.

I’m more perplexed by Cherry’s thin skin to the allegation of Canadians playing dirty. Are we seriously that insecure that we can’t handle being called dirty? I’d take that as a compliment. It is clear Canada has loads of skill, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ five-point night v. Germany, and if they mix ina little grit/dirty play to their game, then good on our young lads.

I credit them for getting Russia’s best player’s attention, and rather than rip on Yakupov, I want to thank him for adding a bit of animosity to the Canada/Russia rivalry. His words weren’t offensive, far from it, but they did get some Canadian fans attention and that’s great.

Let’s just hope it adds some extra energy into their upcoming match on December 31st.

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  • 2012 was the first time in the history of the NHL draft that a Canadian-born forward wasn’t drafted in the first 15 picks. Tom Wilson went 16th to Washington.
  • Nugent-Hopkins’ five-point game v. Germany was a solid performance, but two points short of the single-game Canadian record. Three players own the record. Gabriel Bourque had 3 goals and 4 assists in 2009 in a 16-0 blowout over Latvia, in 2001, Mike Cammalleri had 3 goals and 4 helpers in a 15-0 romp over France while Dave Andreychuk tallied 3 goals and 4 assists in a 13-0 drubbing of Norway in 1983.
  • Peter Forsberg holds the record. He scored ten points, 3 goals and 7 assists,  in a 20-1 victory over Japan in 1993. Russian Yevgeni Kusnetsov had 3 goals and 6 assists last year in Calgary, during a 14-0 win over Latvia.
  • Speaking of skills. Are we coaching the proper skills to our minor hockey players? Read here.
  • I had conversations with an NHL executive and a veteran NHL player over the holidays. I don’t like to quote players or management without attributing them, but both would only speak off the record. I respect that, but also found it positive that both seemed to be on the same page. The GM wasn’t from a Canadian market.
  • The elite NHL player said, "I believe we will be playing soon. I think we are close enough to get a deal done. We’d be foolish not to make a deal."
  • The GMs responded to my question regarding the season with, "We are too close not to get a deal done. I think we can’t afford to have any more damage done to the reputation of our game. We’d feel it in our market."
  • If other owners/GMs and players feel the same as these two, which they should, then hopefully we’ll see NHL hockey in first few months of 2013.
  • Got confirmation that there is nothing in the NHL governance that states a season has to have at least 48 games. That is a number both sides would like to see, but it isn’t set in stone.
  • Would they play a 36-game season? A home and away v. teams in your conference (20 games) and then four games v. divisional opponents (16 games). My sources claim they haven’t thought that far, but I won’t be shocked if they play a season with fewer than 48 games. Ideally they’d want 48, but I don’t see them cancelling the season if they can’t play 48 games, but less than 40 seems unlikely. Sadly, the lockout could drag on for another 50 days.


On Friday, Kerry bid $7,500 on the dinner package, Kris bid $2,000 for the Eberle OKC jersey and Jim showed up at the Pint and donated $1,000 just because. AWESOME.

My 2nd annual "Month of Giving" was a huge success. Thanks again to all the sponsors who donated packages and to all who bid on a package. During the 15 days we raised $51,650.00 for various charities and helped thousands of families. In two years we’ve raised $106,900.00. THANK YOU

It is a lot of work putting together the packages, but it is worth it when we end up helping out so many less people who really need a boost during the Christmas season. Trust me your bids made a big difference in their lives.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.


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  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I have no problem with Yakupov’s quote at all. What he calls “dirty”, we term it “sandpaper” or “grit”. And that’s exactly the type of hockey that sets Canada apart, the ability to play a finesse game with grit. Cherry should take it as a compliment.

  • Zack

    Big fan of Don Cherry but not a fan of his comments he made there. I’m pretty sure Nail would have drawn more of a crowd than that “extra” Canadian kid. I see what Don is trying to say but that’s just a little much.

    As for yesterday’s game I’m surprised I didn’t hear Mackinnon as much as I thought I would. I’m really hoping we get lucky in this draft, I’m not saying number one but hopefully within the top fifteen or ten. As long as Calgary and Toronto draft below top 10 I’ll be happy. Oh and I hope Vancouver gets a low pick too.

  • geoilersgist

    It will just make the game that much more interesting. Grapes is losing it. Occasionally I like him but more often then not he is way out in left field.


    • Exactly right. No two ways about it.

      Don Cherry has always been biased against Europeans, especially Russians. You can’t expect any kind of sane commentary on this kind of issue from Grapes. He’s not even worth discussing when he says stuff like this.

  • Rob...

    I think it’s fitting that I’ve read more quotes from NHLPodium than Don Cherry, and I plan on keeping it that way as long as Gregor refrains from quoting Cherry tweets in the future.

  • Don Cherry is a nationalistic bigot who needs to grow up, but since he hasn’t already I doubt that he ever will. It is sad that a man of his age would get so worked up over what a teenager said about his peers. Just plain sad.

  • Concur

    I wonder if there is a Russian Don Cherry out there who is complaining about how many North American players are currently in Russia taking their jobs? Like a Donil Grapeovitch Cherryovski?

  • Concur

    Don Cherry should have his comments segregated to Central Canada such as Ontario , the only place that his comments are appreciated .

    Oh , and nice suits …..what the heck man ?

    GO OILERS !!

  • Oilers21

    The best thing we can do is ignore what Don Cherry says, simple as that. I like to think that as fans and as a country we have moved on from the “Europeans/French Canadians/anyone who isn’t English Canadian are taking our jobs, are soft, classless”, etc mindset. To respond to Don Cherry with logic and reason is pointless because he doesn’t use or seem to understand either one

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    It’s the ol’ “took someone else’s job” argument.

    Whoever the kid was that didn’t make the team in Sarnia because Yakupov was playing was simply not good enough. The GM’s for these junior teams also want a winning culture too and having the best junior players, import or otherwise, is gonna happen regardless.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I think it’s pretty clear Canadians play dirty. It’s been the way we play the game since ever. I’m sure our international hockey reputation, long before Yakupov came out with it, was that Canadians play dirty.

    It sounds like Cherry is taking exception to the fact that Yakupoc is basically slandering the very same hockey program that allowed him to progress. I guess that is fair, however, it was also hockey Canada that gave Yak so much grief over going to play in the KHL while the lockout is on.

    Furthermore, I am excited to see Yak back up his cavalier attitude with stellar play. It should make for a nice dynamic in the dressing room amongst the young sensations. You have the leader in Hall, the quite one in Nuge, the loudmouth in Yak, and the gap tooth in Eberle.

  • Don is especially entertaining when he is wrong. Times are a changin and many others are not keeping up either. On one hand we smile when someone gets a “gordie howe’ hat trick, fondly reminisce about Mark Messiers elbows – either of which would make Raffi, “don’t need that in our game” Torres seem like a school boy.

    Canadians dirty? Outrageous! Nah, even Clarkes two handeder on Kharmilov was in the good Canadian spirit of just taking care of his man.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I hope Yakapov is a solid self-motivated hockey player and not a distraction to this team. He seems to need structure before he starts playing good hockey.

    I have not seen him yet dominate like RNH, Eberle, Hall……..rather streaky, which is not good. We already have one of those moody, streaky type of players and his name is Hemsky.

    It’s too bad we will have no hockey this year to assess this player.

  • 2004Z06

    Please try to keep things in perspective here. The North American game is significantly different than the European game. Almost any European player/fan would classify the NA game as “Dirty”. I for one do not believe Yak’s comment was intended as the media parlayed it. I believe he was simply referring to the Canadians playing a tougher/physical brand of hockey. Based on the penalty trouble of the pre tournamnent games, Jenners antics both this year and last, Hamiltons 2 handed slash, it is tough to argue.What really irks me is that there is such a desperation in the media for the latest “scoop” or “tweet” that we are creating fire where there is no smoke. It is a shame that these kids are being thrown under the proverbial “media bus” for simply opening their mouths. It won’t be long before players will simply stop talking to the media. As for Don Cherry….He grew up in a different era. The cold war era. You don’t just turn 50 years of engrained behavior off like a switch.

  • Mumbai Max

    I think it is very unfair to call Hemsky moody. He is an introvert and a professional, who has played through pain, and not said a word, in spite of being mindlessly ripped apart by bloggers and MSM.

  • Muji

    The worse part of Cherry’s rant was, “I could care less what Nail thinks of us”.

    If you “could care less”, it means your level of caring is above 0.

    Anyway, I appreciate and like Yakupov’s honesty and personality.
    But I’m pretty sure the Edmonton mainstream media will tear him to shreds at the very first opportunity. If anything, they (you know who I’m talking about..) are just as bad if not worse than Cherry.

    Also, anyone who doesn’t think the Canadians play dirtier than other countries is delusional. They’re scrappy. They’re aggressive. And they always go for the “MONSTER” hit. Take it as a compliment, Don. That’s exactly the type of hockey you like.

  • Muji

    Oiler fans understand this as the team was regarded as tough/dirty from their time in the 80’s into the 90s. Messier and Anderson made a career of hacking and slashing and the likes of McSorley, Semenko, Marchment, and Manson were all regarded as guys who crisscrossed the line in terms of hard/tough play and dirty play. It is strange for a guy like Cherry who points out the toughness in Canadian hockey and champions the tough as nails Canadian style of hockey and yet gets offended by this statement.

    In comparison to European hockey I’d have to agree that Canadians play dirty. From borderline late hits to the hacking and slashing and crosschecking that is very prominent in the NHL, Canadian players play a style that is very win at all costs. I’d take it that Yakupov’s comment is really just an observation on the difference in styles of play between the Europeans and Canadians. I think that’s why guys like Darius Kasparaitis and Ulf Samuelsson were so noticeable back in the 80’s and 90’s. Because they played a style of hockey that wasn’t common to European players.

  • 2004Z06

    Kudos to you for the great commentary in the Journal regarding skills development, Gregor. However, I would say that Steve is wrong with his comment that it should be skating first before passing and stickhandling. Skating is easy to take care of now – just look at all of the power skating options for youth players. At the top tiers in Novice everyone can skate.
    However, skill development at an early age is lacking in most cases, especially passing. The issue here is two-fold: 1) a lack of time spent on skill development vs. systems in practices and 2) the new composite sticks which are great for shooting but not so much for passing/receiving.

    I have assisted on my son’s teams the past 4 years (2 years Initiation and now in 2nd year of Novice) and one thing I am noticing is the number of kids that can skate well and play the proper position on the higher tier teams, but have a low skill level when it comes to receiving/making a pass and stickhandling. We paid the price during the first round of tiering this season for focusing on skill development, especially passing, but it made implementing the basic break-out and attack systems easier later on. Now we are beating teams that pounded us during the first round for the simple reason that our kids can take and make a pass, as well as make a move with the puck to open a passing lane. It was tough on the parents at the beginning because we were losing (and the coaches as a result LOL), but now that things are falling into place nicely they are starting to see the benefits. More importantly, now that the kids are confident with the basic skill plays they are not afraid to try new plays/be more creative which is great to see.

    • Jason Gregor

      Skating is the most important, if you can’t skate you can’t pass. Not all kids have time or money to take extra skating classes. I agree with Steve on order of importance.

      Glad to hear you focused on improving skills over winning. Most coaches who do that see the results in the 2nd half.

  • Bucknuck

    Don Cherry likes Rock ’em Sock ’em hockey. He likes tough kids.

    There is a fine line between tough and dirty, and most tough teams cross it a lot. Nothing wrong with calling it like that. Besides, it’s probably true.

    I love Yakupov’s honesty. Don Cherry is a blow hard, so I am not sure why people would be reacting when he is… well… blowing hard.

  • I think something was lost in translation. Russia to English may not translate so well? And if it wasn’t lost in translation…oh well! Canada being dirty? We, as Canadians, don’t think so so why should we care how someone else thinks how we should play. I remember when I was a teenager in the mid 90’s, people would say Europeans play a sissy brand of hockey. I’ll bet you my left nut that Europeans at that time probably didn’t think so. Different culture, different perspective! So we shouldn’t take offense to it. I love the Canadian brand of hockey, and could careless if anyone thinks its dirty, because i find it super entertaining. When all the teams in our country, and our continent are doing it to each other, can you still say its dirty? I guess what I’m saying is common sense but you get the picture.