Nail Yakupov: in his own words

You may or you may not have read my story on Nail Yakupov in The Hockey News. Well, the thing is, they only gave me 1300 words to work with. So I was left with an immense amount of quotes I didn’t use in the article. I piled them all together so you’d get an idea just what kind of a person this Nail Yakupov is. I will let you decide whether the Oilers should pick him or not.

Here’s what Nail has to say for himself about…

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‘Nail’ is good. I drives me nuts when people try to pronounce my name the proper way. Everybody acts super funny and end up with something like ‘Nah-eel’ (which is not 100% accurate). So I tell everyone: ‘You can call me Nail. It’s easier for you, and it’s better for me’.

Same thing goes for my last name. In Russia they put the stress on the second syllable. Here – on the first. I don’t mind it at all. I’m just joking around with you saying I don’t like it and stuff. In all honesty, I’ve gotten used to this and I don’t pay attention to it anymore.

Days Off

How do I spend my days-off? It depends on where I’m getting back from and how long was the trip. Sometimes I just catch on my sleep. Sometimes we’d get two days-off in a row, but I feel like I didn’t play hard enough the night before so I go to practice. The ice is always available and so is the gym. I can go out for a run. I also try to go to banya (Russian equivalent of sauna) every weekend.

Sometimes I just hang out with my friends. However, I don’t go dancing, clubbing, partying, drinking or anything like that – it’s just not for me.

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It’s not that I always feel I didn’t play hard enough, though. Usually, I go to extra practice when we get two days-off in a row. Why? Because I know that the second day-off won’t do me any good. If I don’t practice for two days in a row, it’s hard for me to get ‘into the game’ the game, you know?

Getting Hit

Hey, there are idiots everywhere you go. Some of them actually get out there to get you hurt. However, I think that if you get injured – it’s your own fault.

Ok, let’s look at this episode with Mike Halmo. Indeed, he head-shot me, but it was my fault I put my head down. I lost concentration for a minute and was punched. Although, he did use his elbow there. I know there’s nothing in his head. He’s a little crazy. But it was my fault. I forgot where I was. I thought I could dangle my way in no problem, there’s no one around… and then this happened. It’s alright, it happens it hockey. You can’t get insurance for that. You can never forget that it’s not just you out there, but there are 10 other guys or so. In this situation I might have as well crashed into my team’s defenseman.

They are going to hit me. There’s no way to get around it. However, I wouldn’t say that somebody’s trying to knock me out on purpose. Stuff happens, sure. As I said earlier, there are idiots everywhere you go.

Trash Talking

Sure, it’s always out there. Some people trash talk me, others slash me… It has been around forever and it’s always going to be out there. By the end of the season it cooled down because I was just not responding to anything. I act as if the guy who tries to annoy me is just not there. That’s it. I’m just doing my job.

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What do they call me? They usually go: ‘Hey you! You’re nothing but a piece of s—! You’re no one! Yo, let’s drop’em, show me what you got!’. Sometimes they’d stick their sticks in my laces or elsewhere. There are a lot of techniques.

World Juniors

For me the game against Canada was the final. Not because we won, but because of the atmosphere. Everybody’s in Canada’s jerseys, everybody chants ‘Canada! Canada!’… Beating Canada was something special. After that game we had a team meeting and said to each other: ‘Look, it’s our last game as a team. Let’s play as hard as we can, let’s all play for the team’. We got a little bit unlucky. However, despite this, I’m satisfied with the way the tournament went for us.


I don’t have any preferred genre. It’s not like I’m into just country, rock, pop or something else. If I like a song, regardless of its genre, I download it. It may be a gentle melody and it may be rock. It depends. Although, for usually I listen to club music. Not remixes as they like it in Canada, but the actual club music. I know it’s weird but I can’t help it – I don’t like night clubs, but I like club music.


Let me tell you this, ok? These guys are really weird. I know just a handful of people who resemble us – Russians. I know just a few guys who don’t like to fool around, as it’s common here, and aren’t complete I-don’t-care-about-anything type of guys. Seriously, I know just a few guys who you can really sit down with and they will tell you what’s on their mind, what bothers them, what have they seen… stuff like that.

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If I had to name these guys, I’d say Daniel Broussard was one of them. He drove me around the town and we talked quite a lot. Unfortunately, he was traded to Ottawa. One other guy I can think about is Brendan Maxwell, who was traded to Mississauga. He visited me often. We had dinner together and he told me a whole bunch of stories. He doesn’t act as if he’s from North America at all.

Being Famous

Honestly, I don’t even notice it. Sure, I see my name around different websites, newscasts and so on but I don’t get too excited about it. I don’t think too hard about the things people say about me. Sometimes they say that I’m bad because of this, this and this. Sometimes they say that I’m dealing with a lot of pressure on my shoulders because it’s my draft season. Sometimes they don’t say anything. I have a goal. I don’t get distracted by little things.

His nemesis – Mikhail Grigorenko

Pre-draft rankings haven’t affected our relationship. The way we talked to each other at the U18 World Chamionship, we talked at the World Juniors too. We didn’t go after one another because of the draft. We weren’t like: ‘I’m the best! No, I’m the best!’ Most of the time we would talk about Canada. It was my second year here and he was a rookie this season. He’d ask me how I was doing and I’d ask the same. I know that he lived with his mom, sometimes his dad visited them. He really liked it there. Especiallythe rink. All in all we’d talk about general stuff.

Production Decrease

Oh, I remember questions about this. At the World Juniors everybody asked me about it. They tried to get a nice quote from me or something like that, I don’t know. Sure, I wanted to score at the World Juniors. Maybe I was the only one who didn’t score (laughs). I was more worried about my game, though. You can help your team without even getting any points, you know? You can block a shot, play safe at your own end and stuff like that.

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Certainly, I wasn’t used to it. I mean, I always score and there I didn’t. It really helped that my parents were around. My dad told me right away: ‘Don’t worry. The way the team plays is all that matters. All in its time’. At least, I have 9 assists, a very good game against Team Canada, a silver medal and excellent memories of the tournament. To be honest with you, I didn’t even get sad because I didn’t score.


I don’t think I should be compared to anyone. It’s okay to compare Ovechkin to Kovalchuk. Or Crosby to Ovechkin. Or Sedin to Sedin. These guys have already played at the World Championships and Stanley Cup Finals. They are all grown men and play as such.

I’m still young and I haven’t won anything. I didn’t even win Junior A championship in Russia! I always finished second or third. Then I thought: ‘Maybe I’m going to win the World Juniors?’. And yet I still couldn’t win it. This is why I don’t compare myself to anybody. My goal is to play well. I want to have a successful career, which would only bring me good feelings. After that, if all goes well, I could compare myself to someone. Although, you can compare me to anyone you want to, right? It’s not like I can veto it, eh? (laughs)

Being a team player

I’m not the kind of guy who doesn’t care where his team is in the standings. I’m not the one who thinks: ‘So I’m on the team… whatever. The way it plays, doesn’t affect my pay-cheque’. I always set my bar high. I want to be a top-6 forward. I want to score, I want to get assists and I want to win. I don’t care what team I’m on. Every team has a potential. Every team has good players and coaches. Any team can lose. Every team can win.

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I don’t even know what it is – the NHL. I’ve been to five games in Detroit. I went to their locker-room once and met the Red Wings. But I don’t know what it is – the NHL. I don’t know how the NHLers live or how they practice. I know that everything is going to be different. I just don’t know how different. I’m not in a position to discuss whether it’s going to be better or worse.

NHL is one of the top leagues in the world. I think it’s an honor to be a part of any team in this league. I don’t think you have to complicate things in your head. You just have to work hard. Because the second you expose any weakness, you’re going to be eaten and done for.

Being a role model

I know where all this talk is coming from. We play in the CHL – and you can watch the goals we score on YouTube, read about us in the papers and hear people talk about us. The kids back home see this and they go: ‘I wanna play there too! Let’s go to Canada!’ I don’t know why but here they put a lot of trust in people. They give you an opportunity to find your game and develop.

Every player wants to be talked about, written about and his goals shown on TV. You have to understand that you can only be helped to get on a CHL team. After this – it’s all you. Neither your agent, nor your parents will be able to perform for you on the ice. Once you’ve gotten here, you must work twice as much. A chance is all you given.

Recently by Andrey Osadchenko

  • The Soup Fascist

    It is a good question. I believe there are a very few exceptions (sickness being one of them) where fasting can be “deferred” for lack of a better word or made up for by feeding the poor. Whether severe hydration constitutes illness – probably an answer which the individual himself needs to be comfortable with. But from what I understand the expectation would be that no food or water would be permitted.

    You raise a really interesting question, JDI. If one is a – let’s say – roofer who is a practicing Muslim working in Yellowknife and Ramadan falls in mid-June, what do you do? Work in the heat and not drink water for 22 hours? Not unreasonable to suggest that the results could be fatal.

    Obviously the origin of Ramadan was in a part in the world where sunrise / sunset occur at a relatively similar time of day all year long. Tougher when you live in Northern Alberta – and Ramadan falls in the summer months.

    • justDOit

      Exactly. For today, sunrise is about 5 am and sunset about 10 pm in Edmonton.

      Maybe he can get a note from his doctor… “Please excuse Nail from Ramadan today. He needs to bring the Stanley Cup back to Edmonton.”

      • Wax Man Riley

        I sometimes feel like the moral police here, but this is something I have been wondering as well.

        I have heard (correct me, please) that with special permissions from your Imam, and I would assume certain observances in lieu of, you would be given permission not to observe.

        I have also heard (again, ladies, correct me if I’m wrong) that women do not need to observe it during menses (a Muslim friend told me once).

  • Clyde Frog

    Can we leave worrying about religous observances to the religuos internet boards…

    If you are so worried, go talk to an Imam about it… Otherwise its just going to lead to a bout of Albertan “tolerance” at its best.

    So far Yakupov is the best 18 year old in the world at hockey, can we talk about that?

    • justDOit

      Sorry Clyde – but this is about hockey, and the discussion is not sliding toward religion at all. In fact just the opposite. We’re discussing the health impacts of extreme physical exertion while fasting.

      I didn’t realize that you were the self appointed moderator of this board. Feel free to ban me then.

  • The Soup Fascist

    @ Clyde Frog

    Fair enough, but JDI’s question was not one of intolerance or, I believe, had any hidden agenda. It was a question based on what appears to be a devout young man’s observance of a very Sacred rite, to which many people in this area subscribe.

    I don’t see any religous overtones just a reasonable question about the logistic problems that could be encountered. I understand this is a hockey blog and respect your POV, but JDI’s question is valid and I think, respectful.

    PS: At the end of the day Nail will find away (and presumably already has found a way in Junior and as a youngster) to overcome any conflicts between his faith and his job, just as countless others already have.

  • striatic

    “In hockey, there is little precedence and Kadri went to his imam – to get advice and the clearance.

    “I try to fast, but when you’re on the ice a couple of times a day, it’s physically pretty impossible. You need to be hydrated. You need your water, things like that,” Kadri told the Toronto Sun prior to the camp. “Obviously, it’s pretty hard to (fast) now. But (the Muslim community) understands the situation and supports me.””

    from this article

  • I tend to think this kid will fit in just fine with the rest of the kids, after all the ultimate goal is to win.

    His work ethic just impresses the heck out of me, great head on his shoulders, I like that he’s a little cocky as well.

    I still think the Oilers should try and trade to also get that defensmen in this draft. Dumba-Rielly-Rienhart-Truba

    If they only come away with Yakupov they still have won this draft.

  • Osmosis_jones

    As a Muslim I can answer some of these questions

    There are special permissions to allow people to be exempt from fasting. Examples are if you have to work and are unable to fast due to the nature of your job ( hockey player counts as a job, although sadly I have yet to get this job). Times of war, medical condition, anything basically that causes too much stress on your body would make you exempt. For example, even if you have a cold you would not be required to fast. And if you are really devout, you can always make up the days you miss at a later time which is convenient for you.

    You are right women do not fast during their menses.

    I was fasting one year during bantam and we had a game around 7 pm, and my dad wanted me to fast that day. Sunset was about 6:45, so there I was having a cheeseburger in front of my teammates minutes before the game. My teammates thought it was funny (it was, my coach recommended something healthy, but hey, I was 14) but they were all accepting and understanding of my beliefs. I would assume all NHL players would be the same (except for maybe Tim Thomas).

    Hope that clears up any questions. Lastly, I wasn’t aware that Nail was a Muslim. Can anyone confirm this or provide a link to where it says he is?

  • Reg Dunlop

    @ClydeFrog #45

    …a bout of Albertan ‘tolerance’ at its best?
    I think you underestimate Albertans. I am confident that all of us citizens of ON can discuss subjects other than the draft in an adult fashion.

    ‘cept them queers in calgary

  • Osmosis_jones

    It is me Kadri!! Sadly I will never become a hockey player. I am a shame to my people. Although I’m the best hockey player to ever come out of Iran, it’s akin to saying I’m the best car ever built in Russia.

  • Osmosis_jones

    Or the best diver on the Canucks.

    Just a thought but here goes: is there any player in this draft who has the potential to be an all star in this league other than Yakupov? I don’t think so. The Oilers cannot under any circumstances trade this pick. I love Murray, but he is not Niedermayer or Doughty. Reinhart is more Karl Alzner than Shea Weber.

    Some people are concerned about Yak’s injury, but are all over the potential of Galychenyuk. Doesn’t make sense to me.

    Everyone who thinks Murray is the guy at no. 1 needs to take a history lesson. Last year Larsson was everyone’s wet dream, yet made zero impact as a rookie. He hasn’t even played a playoff game during NJ’s run. A few years ago Hedman was the next Lidstrom (Larsson was also compared to him) but has yet to make a huge impact. Pieterangelo is gonna be great but it’s taken him awhile. Expecting any d-man in this draft to come in and make a difference is unreasonable and unrealistic. Yakupov is the only impact player there is.

    If you want a real defenseman, trade anyone Yak next season at the draft so you can take Seth Jones. He is a beast and will be a stud franchise d-man for 20 years a la Chris Pronger or Zdeno Chara.