Nail Yakupov is a splendid hockey player and an absolutely incredible quote. He’s a flashy guy with a great deal of loyalty and continues to endear himself to Oilers Nation by saying exactly the right thing at the right time. The result is a growing bond between player and fanbase–I dare say that if the Yak Celly reaction happened today, critics would have been quiet that night (and that’s not a bad thing). Nail Yakupov is larger than life, an emerging legend, and it’s our good fortune to be along for the ride.
When we last left Mr. Yakupov, he was humbling NHL opposition nightly (fact: Nail Yakupov scored 11 April goals in 14 games during that month, effectively putting his stamp on the most impressive rookie season in the league without actually getting the award–something Oiler players must be used to by now) and having a grand time. The calendar year 2013 really did give us a wonderful view of the young Russian.
However, there’s also a downside to the coverage Yakupov gets, and I can’t help thinking it might be a bias or language/culture barrier. An example would be January 2, 2013 where Nail’s being unavailable to the media started quite the snow storm from media and the phrase "prima donna" was attached to the young man by legendary writer Cam Cole.
Fast forward to now, and a brilliant piece by Joanne Ireland has Yak City passing on the opportunity to wear #10 out of respect for his first captain, Shawn Horcoff. I think we all–media, fans–sometimes jump to conclusions and that’s human nature. However, in this case, I think we can probably put forward the possibility that "prima donna" was perhaps thrown out there a little too quickly.
MAKING A MOUNTAIN OUT OF A MOLE HILL
Not a big deal, and God knows you can browse through my back pages and find any and all missteps, but I think it should be mentioned that the European hockey player appears to get fewer breaks from the North American media on all kinds of things. The Staples article mentions a moment in time when this may have happened, the Celly against the Kings and reaction to it would certainly be another. Good grief that was an incredible moment, anyone in Rexall or watching at home would have done that celebration (and did! my cat is STILL on the ceiling!), and I do wonder if the reaction would have been as swift and negative from some circles if Nail Yakupov had been born and raised in Winnipeg.
THE (GENUINE) IRELAND ARTICLE
Joanne Ireland is a helluva writer, she really is. I’ve been reading her for decades, have met her exactly once, and yet if you add up the reasonable and the rational Ireland ranks at the top of local writers and interesting stories delivered. Her Yakupov piece did it again: with fewer than 750 words (attention bloggers like me) she conveyed a very touching conversation with a teenager from half a world away who has come to know the value of a long term captain and honors it in a unique and personal way.
Few articles have impressed me more than this one. An Edmonton writer finds a compelling story and writes it beautiflly, a Russian teenager’s words showing respect and humility. I’m hopeful we can remember this article when Nail Yakupov or another Euro player does something that rattles the jewellry in the free seats.
Ireland’s article is here, it is very much recommended to all.