Nail Yakupov’s selection by the Edmonton Oilers is a watershed moment in the team’s history. “Oilers” and “Russians” have not exactly been synonymous since 1990. A gifted young man–with a love for the game and a real character–may represent a paradigm shift for an organization that cannot afford to overlook any portion of the planet.
This is Jim Harrison of the “Alberta” Oilers. That first team (72-73) boasted players from Bonnyville (Harrison), Flin Flon (Allan Hamilton), Tisdale, Williams Lake, Castor, Wetaskiwin, St. Albert, Regina, Calgary, Red Deer, Stettler, Vegreville, Cranbrook, North Battleford, Delisle, Winnipeg. There were Edmonton kids (Doug Barrie) and a couple from Ontario plus Roger Cote from Quebec. John Fisher–a center–was born in Ayr, Scotland but played his junior hockey in Moose Jaw and St. Catherine’s.
The first edition of the Edmonton Oilers was all-Canadian. And that was typical for the time. However, there was a revolution going on in North American hockey, beginning with men like Borje Salming, Inge Hammarstrom and later the Finns and still later Czechs and Russians.
The Russian impact on NHL hockey is still recent in historic terms. Alexander Mogliny was the Soviet Union’s first defector to the NHL, and his homeland’s first great star in North America.In 1989, he snuck away from his team after it won the 1989 World Championships, and secretly flew to Buffalo to sign with the Sabres, who drafted him the year before. At that point, Russian government officials were letting veterans like Slava Fetisov, Sergei Makarov and Igor Larionov free from their RSL teams to finish their careers in North America.
OILERS AT THE DRAFT
Anatoli Semenov is one of the few Russians drafted by the Edmonton Oilers who also had an NHL career of note. Of the 226 Russian players who have played in the NHL the most famous who have been Oilers are Nikolai Khabibulin, Boris Mironov, Andrei Kovalenko, Sergei Samsonov and the beloved Igor Ulanov..
The Russian Oilers have done some famous and some infamous things while in the Oilers employ, but I think it is safe to say the young man taken #1 is about to rewrite the script.
More than any Oiler prospect in recent history, Nail Yakupov has given people an idea about what a fun-loving young man he is and captured the imagination of the fanbase in a heartbeat. For an organization and city that hasn’t had a lot of Russians players in the heart of the order, Yakupov is about to swing open those doors and knock history on its ear.
It’s about time.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Nail Yakupov signed his NHL entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers this week. We can (and will) talk about where he’ll slot in the lineup and where his diabolical shot ranks among the young riflemen.
The Edmonton Oilers have their first homegrown Russian superstar. Finally, an impact player who’ll embrace the weather.
We have a cool group joining us for the show today at noon on TEAM 1260. Please send your questions via the comments section, firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @Lowetide_ or @ItsNationRadio. Scheduled to appear:
- Jonathan Willis, the hardest working man on the internet! Jon took a vacation recently and the internet dropped dead. Seriously. Well he’s back and mystifying, stupifying, enraging, engaging and turning out about one dozen articles an hour. We’ll force him to put down his tablet and spend some quality time with us.
- Kirk Luedeke from NEHJ and Redline Report. Our man Kirk guided us through the winter and spring with draft tidbits and now we’ll spend a few minutes looking back on winners and losers. I think you’ll be surprised by some of his takes.
- Cam Davie, Tinfoil Tuque from Canucks Army. We’re going to talk the hell out of hockey, but we’ll also discuss Cam’s involvement inROAD HOCKEY TO CONQUER CANCER and his inspiration for it. If you haven’t read the story, please follow the link and get the back story. You won’t regret it.
- David Staples from Cult of Hockey. We’ll talk arena, team building, free agency, draft and more with David and maybe look back a little too.
- Jeff Krushell from Krush Sports Performance. Jeff will guide us through a few health related questions in regard to recovery and we’ll also discuss the possible lockout and how that might impact training, preparation and returning from injury.
Looking forward to it, hope you can join Connor Halley and me.