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.


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.


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.

  • Was a great article. Yak always came off to me as a happy kid that just wants to fit in and be liked (loved?) by everyone. I am of Russian descent, so I always attach myself to the fellow Ruskies, but I’ve been pleased to see how much the fans here have adored him and stuck up for him.

    I don’t really recall people saying bad things about him like fans here can do about any other player. Hopefully it stays that way. Nail is on his way to a very exciting career. There is a lot of language barrier issues with many Europeans but you can see that he’s a very humble, happy go lucky kid. Glad he’ll continue being N64 too.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    Language barrier and his exuberant personality been a bit of a problem for him. Some media types have put a label on him for a few things, and the criticism is really unwarranted. He’s done and said more good things then the couple questionable activities. Everyone remembers his saluting the Oilers’s logo, this guys proud, committed, and wants to be here. He’s a good chap, leave Yak alone.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    I really hope kissing the logo after scoring becomes his thing. Its like he’s thanking us every time he scores. I could watch that all day. He would make a 8hr shift at BurgerKing fun. Nothing wrong with that.

  • justthestatsman

    Loved the cat on the ceiling line. The hooting and hollering by my TV set when Yak scored might only have been matched by the Marchant OT winner in Game 7 and Pisani’s shorty in 2006. Our cat was there for all three and still thinks I’m crazy.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    Hindsight being 20-20, it looks to me like the real prima donnas were the self-entitled and self-annointed ones sitting in the pressbox.

    Let’s see who will be big enough to admit that their first impressions were wrong (or that their Euro-bias was on display a bit too quickly) and who will stubbornly continue to grind an axe.

    Over to you, Matheson and company…

  • 2004Z06

    I have been a fan since 1978 and have seen players come and go. How can you not cheer for this kid? The bit of criticism is unfair. Just as Omark was criticized for the spin-o-rama by Stamkos who then promptly went out 3 games later and did the same thing.

    It is an international game now and foreign players should be viewed no differently than our own. The media builds these “mountains”, not the fans.

    Anything for a story nowadays. Be it warranted or not.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    Well said, truer words have never been spoken. Yak possesses a unique and refreshing attitude. This team could use more of what he brings to the table. I look forward to seeing him grow up in an Oilers uni.