It’s a classic bit of advice passed down to rookies from sage veterans that have long since lost their wide-eyed enthusiasm and formidable passion. It’s a request for class and humility masking a repressed desire to be the guy who slides down the ice on his knees, waves of adulation from the crowd crashing on them as cameras capture the highlight for perpetuity.
Or maybe those sage advisers aren't wired that way, which is to say not wired the way Nail Yakupov is wired.
The Edmonton Oilers rookie batted a puck out of mid-air to tie the Los Angeles Kings with 4.7 seconds left on Thursday night – right after the Oilers’ initial tying goal was waived off – and then proceeded to skate down the ice, drop to his knees and slide into the Edmonton defensive zone before being mobbed by his teammates.
It was reminiscent, to the point of tribute, of Theo Fleury's celebration after scoring the OT goal in Game 6 of the 1991 Smythe Division semifinals against – who else? – the Edmonton Oilers. If this was premeditated by Yakupov, it’s a brilliantly subversive one: Re-imagining a quintessential moment for a rival franchise as his own.
That’s probably giving Yakupov too much credit. It felt very much in the moment and spontaneous. That’s why, by and large, it’s been given a pass by hockey punditry that otherwise bemoans anything that emphasizes the name on the back rather than the logo on the front.
Yakupov’s celebration is the latest litmus test measuring the NHL’s stodgy, homogenous culture and the way it reacts to the ego and personality of – frequently European and Russian – players that call for the spotlight on their achievements.
It appears the snobs are losing.Read More »from Nail Yakupov’s goal celebration and death to the NHL’s tedious decorum