Nail Yakupov and The Puck

Ever since Nail Yakupov was projected to go first overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, he was a media darling. He with candid and well-spoken with Russian media and tried his best to do the same for North American media with the little command of English language he had.

And he succeeded. Think of his famous post-game interview after the semifinal game in Calgary at the 2012 World Juniors. Nail gives broken English a new meaning, and yet you are drawn to the nonsense he’s saying. Because it’s not the words you’re listening to – it’s the emotion.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

His reputation was shaken by his alleged comment about Team Canada and how ‘dirty’ they play. At the World Juniors in Ufa Yakupov came out to the media once and didn’t say much even then.

He made it clear to everyone before the tournament that he doesn’t feel like talking to the media. However, the message was not understood and the reporters kept pushing but to no avail. The media got angry with Yakupov and now it seems that the fans are on the reporters’ side.

I don’t really feel like talking about why all of this is happening and why Yakupov decided to do what he did. Instead, I would like to share a story with you. A story from the World Juniors. A story that not a single reporter broke because they were blindly following the ‘dirty Canadians’ lead.

Junior hockey isn’t big in Russia – heck, is it anywhere outside of Canada? – so there is only a fistful of journalists who cover it. Elena ‘Rusko’ Kolpakova (@ElenaRusko) is one of them. She is a writer on occasion but her main line of work is photography. I may be wrong but I think she’s covered every World Junior Championship since 2008. She works for the largest news and photo agencies in Russia and is even tapping into North American market now.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Russian junior – and former junior – players are well-aware of her. It’s hard not to be when she’s your main source of your pictures from the game, though. Kolpakova has a hobby – she’s into collecting pucks. Game used pucks primarily. Every tournament she asks a few players on Team Russia to bring her a puck from the game if they have a chance.

In Ufa she asked Yakupov for the favor. Yeah, the same evil and mute Yakupov the general crowd thought they saw in Russia.

Kolpakova reminded Yakupov about the puck right before the Canada-Russia game in the round robin. Canada dominated on the ice; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Yakupov’s rival in this context – picked up three points as his team won 4-1. Russia lost their chance to win a bye to a semifinal. All of this happened on New Year’s Eve – by far a bigger holiday in Russia than Christmas is in Canada. The Russian team was heavily criticized by the media when they were winning. You can imagine what the press did to Yakupov and company after that loss. You’d think Nail would be the first one to storm off the ice after the devastating loss.

However, Yakupov stays on the ice when everyone is headed to the dressing rooms. He’s looking for Kolpakova in the stands. As soon as the eye contact is established, he raises his hand. He got her a puck. She pressed the button.

A few hours later he made this picture his profile on – a Russian social network.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Whoever had a chance to privately talk to Yakupov – even those of us who cover hockey for a living – will tell you the same thing. He’s still the guy we knew and loved. He’s an honest and reliable friend.

Who cares if for the time being he doesn’t feel like talking to the media who insists on asking the same questions day in and day out? Who cares if he thinks Team Canada plays dirty? He’s from a country that still remembers what Bobby Clarke did to Valeri Kharlamov after all.

The smallest deeds speak volumes. In Yakupov’s case it very well may be the story about the puck.

  • Personally I find the kid to be a card.

    Its almost comical that they (msm) would bare their teeth on a teenage kid with some moxie rather than the cast of also rans that have gained “acceptance” within their circle.

    Welcome to etown Yak!


    Looking forward to your rockstar persona getting you in all kinds of situations…… put the pedal down kid….. this town needs it….. as this endless run of “nice and polished” has gotten this organization bottom feeder rights for far too long.

    Bring it!!!!!

  • Rob...

    I don’t think many fans have soured on Yakupov, and as long as he remains sincere in what he says I won’t fault him for his take on Canadians, Canadian style hockey, Edmonton, or the Oilers organization.

    By the way, his twitter feed has a smattering of comments demanding he tweet in English instead of Russian. Ignoring the stupidity of those demands, here’s a helpful hint: If you use Chrome as your web-browser, right-click on any webpage after it has loaded and one of the options should be ‘Translate to…’ Click on it and a bar should open at the top of the page giving you options as to what language you want to convert the page into. Very helpful when you want to see how a European prospect is being viewed in the local press or when feeling unjustifiable rage that a PERSON dare tweet in his/her native tongue.

  • My wife & I travelled to Rome via Vancouver & Franfurt in November, the day after the end of the Subway Series. The Russian junior team was on the same flight from Vancouver to Frankfurt. Nail was wearing an Oilers’ tee shirt under his Russian team jacket. I had the opportunity to make a bit of small talk with him while we were boarding the flight. I found him to be very pleasant and my take was that he was looking very much forward to playing in Edmonton.

  • striatic

    I watched ALOT of KHL during the lockout and got to see quite a few Metallurg NK games. Yak is an exciting player who worked hard and is well-liked by the fans there. The Oilers have tremendous potential, and he’s part of it. It would be a shame to poison the atmosphere by blindly swallowing the Cherry kool-aid. Nice to see the Oilers getting behind the young man.

  • Milli

    This game desperatly needs caracters. I hope he lights it up on the ice, and tell the truth off the ice! I want some personality. Anyone remember Hall getting ripped for saying that he expects to beat a team ( I think it was Detroit). That is what the media in Canada does. If I was a reporter, I want more Roeniks, Yakupovs!

  • Yak- Bring your passion and i am sure you will to your new
    home away from home. You will be embraced here, you could become a hero here. Edmonton is Home , we live and breathe Hockey.
    Speak your mind, Love your team mates. Something special is going to happen here, we know it, you know it. Become one of us.
    You are … Edmonton Oiler, and we have come back from our Slumber to take back what is ours. Welcome and enjoy the Ride Nail.

    NHL… Be afraid – be very afraid. We are back and we dont forget.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      Awesome, we will never forget all the years of abuse our team, and city has taken over the last few years. All the critics, and synics saying our team is garbage. Go on and hate all you want, we all know what’s going to take place in the next few years. Every team in the league had the same opportunities as us like Pitts & Chi town and washington, even Colorado, is on the up and up.

      Our team is special cause its our team and we have history in this league. And it’s just history coming back around to us. just think islanders are another team just like us with potential just like back in the 80’s

      Now it’s our turn to be loud and proud Yak, hall, ebs, nuge, and Schultz might be the core but I’m just as excited about our original team as well don’t forget most of our team has been with us their whole careers as well; smid, petry, gags, dubby, hemsky, smyth. This team has amazing potential sure we could use a few tweaks but what team couldn’t?

      Glad to see oil faithful standing behind these young guns and being proud parents ready to pounce on anyone who try’s to hurt them. This is a great time to be a fan.

  • striatic

    Sorry about that. Yak played for Neftekhimik. All this flak reminds me of Lupul’s piece about his cup of coffee in the KHL. You have to admire someone who’s willing to take such big chances.

  • Can you see this kid with the C on his jersey one day ?
    Yes, Nuge and Ebs and Hall would be great captains, but there is
    something about Yak. I think this kid is like Taylor in he is fearless, Natural goal scorer like Nuge is a passer. Look Out. He plays for his team and teamates no matter what team he is on.

    All i can say is …LETS GO OILERS !!! Jan 19th Take it out
    and destroy the flames.

  • B S

    There’s a reason I have to watch TSN broadcasts muted. The media decides what the stories are, then alters the facts to suit that. Apparently Yakupov is a selfish, defensively irresponsible, hateful player and a poor captain. Despite the jokes he cracks when he’s talking to the media here, despite the fact that he put his reputation on the line to get under the skin of team Canada before an important game. Despite the fact that the ‘offense-first’ Yakupov was on the 2nd pk unit, covering the point.

    Perhaps instead of “passing the puck, but then completely missing the rush” (TSN broadcast of the Canada v. Russia WJC game) Yakupov might have been setting his linemates up to break into the opposing zone while he covered the neutral zone in case of a turnover. Of course, that sort of selfless play doesn’t suit the one-dimensional Russian Star Forward that he’s been billed as by TSN, Sportsnet, and even some of the Edmonton media.

    I have yet to hear a Yakupov quote I didn’t like (he isn’t the only Oilers prospect to take a stab at Canada btw; when he was captain of Sweden, Anton Lander said Canada didn’t concern him, it was the U.S. that was the team to beat). He extends our elite scoring options to two full lines, and he has the quickest release I’ve ever seen. He’s also shown a willingness to play a complete game in order to cover for the other russian stars (albeit with mixed results) which tells me he puts winning ahead of his own glory. I fully expect him to be a calder finalist at the end of the season (we all know the trophy will go to the one finalist who isn’t an Oiler).

  • justDOit

    If you wish the puck dropped tonight

    Leave a comment on this site …

    Favorite Oilers Memory ?

    Anyone remember the ALBERTA OILERS Vrs The MINNESOTA FIGHTING SAINTS in a one game showdown in Calgary of all places ?

    Add to this list of WHA TEAMS you remember..

    Cincinnati Stingers

    yeah i am bored… play along

  • I believe TSN and Sportsnet(Bell&Rogers) main purpose is to sell citizens nationalism via hockey. They broadcast and commentate sports in 2012 like it is 1938.

    In an hour broadcast, they will spend 25-30 percent of the time offering “insider opinions” on stories that haven’t and that might occur.WTF?.!..

    I have heard of “insider” infortmation, but never of “insider” opinion. For coverages that pride them selves on insiders, they sure spent a lot of time standing outside covering the lock-out. I won’t even try to count or estimate how many times their guesses and insider information was wrong.

    Yesterday, during both stations coverage of the Burke’s fire me now because I don’t want to step down fiasco, there was about 10-12 “insiders” and experts offering their opinion on the matter. No matter what any of them had to say(which was a whole lot of nothing) their final thought was “Why now?”. As if. The MSM is a bunch of clowns and suckers who undermine general publics opinion with their bullsh!t and perception of reality.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Cleveland Crusaders
    Ottawa Nationals
    Phoenix Roadrunners
    New York Golden Blades ?
    Toronto Toros
    New England Whalers. Awesome Jerseys

    Vancouver ?
    Winnipeg jets
    The good ole Quebec Nordiques , who deserve a NHL Franchise.

  • justDOit

    Favorite Oilers memory or one of them, Alberta Oilers.\
    Jim Harrison, 3 goals 7 assists one night, i was going to the old Glengarry shell for a game of my own, listening to the radio while mom drove.
    Harrison rocked !!

    Anyone got any old Edmonton Gardens Memories ?

    Ok young bucks, we mature dudes are turning back the clock for a bit.

    I remember Dad having season tickets , my seat was behind or beside one
    of those damn pillars in the middle of the stands, couldnt see squat. lol

  • Cowboy

    @Andrey Osadchenko

    The fans are behind Yakupov. When he made those comments, most fans thought the context was lost in translation.

    “The media got angry with Yakupov and now it seems that the fans are on the reporters’ side”

    Oiler fans took to Yakupov’s defence and gave Jim Matheson (HHOF writer whose covered the Oilers for 30 years) a dose of 21st century reality.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Grew up on the WHA. So blinded by it i never remembered seeing Bobby Orr play till he was a Blackhawk.

    One of the nicest guys i remember was Bill Goldsworthy. Always the first one out on the ice for practice, he use to fool with the couple fans there by firing pucks at them in the stands. He never missed, always hit the seat next to me.

    Paul Henderson (Birmingham Bulls) never walked by a kid without offering some words of encouragement. Always offered me his stick, too bad i shot right as well and used the sticks he gave me. Great man, always made time to build an impression.

    Bam Bam (Dave Langevin) and Risto Siltanen were approachable guys as well. Was never sure if Risto could understand what fans were asking. He would always have that ear to ear grin/laugh going. The gentle giant, Bill Cowboy Flett, a raging bull on blades when someone got under his skin.

    Good times…..

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Mountains out of mole hills. People just need to understand that he comes from a different culture than guys like Hall and RNH did. Every step on their journey to the NHL, Canadian junior players (especially the high end, high draft pick ones) are coached up on dealing with the media. Not to mention that English is usually their first language. It doesn’t help when somebody with the status of a Don Cherry feeds us the same ethnocentric garbage every weekend. Let’s be patient with the kid. He’s a breath of fresh air and I am looking forward to seeing him light it up.

  • I was 7 and my older brother who was 11 when we went to Team Canada 74 training camp at the old Edmonton Gardens. All the players were WHAers.
    I can remember it quite vividly. We still have a photo album with all the autographs we got including: Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Mark and Marty Hall, Norm Ulman, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Paul Henderson etc.
    For some reason I remember John Mackenzie being funny and great with the fans.

    Looking forward to seeing this team entertain.
    I remember how much fun it was in the glory years.
    This may not be the same thing but it will be sure cool to see all these young passionate players growing up together.
    It will be a grind but a very fun few months.

    Good luck Nail!