Friday, January 25, 2013

Reaction to Nail Yakupov's goal celebration

Last night in the Edmonton Oilers-Los Angeles Kings game, rookie Nail Yakupov scored with 4.7 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime. What followed immediately after the goal, was Yakupov rushing down the ice, dropping to his knees, and sliding all the way into his own zone. Here's the clip if you haven't seen it yet:

The kid was fired up. Oilers fans were going nuts. Jonathan Quick looked more dejected than me at a grade 7 school dance. It was quite a scene to behold.

Now, what followed in hockey circles and the twitterverse is what triggers this column. The debate raged all night and into this morning, as fans, writers, bloggers, players, all had an opinion on Yakupov's celebration. Some folks thought it was a big cocky, other's thought it was a kid getting excited in the moment, some could care less because it's the Oilers.

Either way, this is what I thought of when I saw the highlight this morning on SportsCentre:

See the resemblance? No, it's not entirely the same, but you get the idea.

I can see both sides of the argument. Yeah, Yakupov is obviously going insane after scoring one of the bigger goals in his career. And, considering all the B.S. the Oilers put up with throughout the game (I don't even like Edmonton, and I was baffled by some of those penalties), as well as the disallowed goal with a minute left -- which, in reality, was a goal that the refs blew -- I give a little more credibility to that celebration.

On the other hand, acting like that after only your second career goal, combined with the fact that it was only Edmonton's third game of the season, makes me believe that Yakupov may have gone a bit too far.

Did Yakupov's celebration go too far?
(THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jason Franson)
No matter what you hear players say in interviews over the next few days, know this: if I was on the Kings after that goal, I would keep that image of him sliding across the ice in my head until the two teams play again, and I would put my stick right in his teeth the first opportunity I get. Yes, that seems extremely excessive, but that's how hockey players think. They have a sense of pride and honour when it comes to things like this. And if he tried to do that celebration at any other time over the course of the game -- and not with five seconds left in regulation -- then my gloves would have already been off and I would have chased him into his own end.

This has nothing to do with Yakupov being Russian; more so, it has to do with him being a rookie. Think about it: if you're a 10-year veteran who hasn't done much more than put his arms up after scoring a goal, and here comes this hot-shot kid who was picked first overall in the draft, and just embarrassed your team after scoring a goal -- are you going to let him get away with it? Of course not. Hockey player's have huge egos, and seeing something like that enrages them. You don't think Darryl Sutter is telling one of his tough guys to either take a run at Yakupov or one of the other young guns in their next game? This is how the NHL works. Even if it seems ridiculous at times, a hockey player's code dictates that, at some point during the season, the Oilers will suffer the consequences of his celebration.

Side-note: back to the Russian issue, go over to Ryan Lambert's (@twolinepass) timeline and scroll down to read all the idiots Lambert retweeted, who use Yakupov's nationality as the reason for his celebration. God I love Lambert's trolling skills. 

Another thing that irked me on twitter was how fans immediately defending Yakupov by saying that there wasn't this type of reaction when Theo Fleury had the same celebration 22 years ago. In reality, it is impossible to compare the two when you look at the situation's that Yakupov and Fleury were in:
  • Nail scored a game-tying goal at the beginning of the regular season in a game that, again, was in the regular season
  • Theo scored an overtime winner in game six of a playoff series that kept his team alive, against their most hated rival, when the two teams were two of the best teams in hockey
See the difference?

No matter what follows after all this, all I know is that Nail Yakupov is certainly making an impact on the NHL early in his career, and that this guy is supremely talented. It's funny how no one is talking about how amazing the goal itself actually was. Ah well, I'm sure we'll see it on highlight packages for years to come.

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