Russians are lazy, take plays off, showboat and don’t play the game hard, or at least not as hard as the “good ol’ Canadian boys” in the league and will leave for the KHL at the drop of a hat. That’s the stereotype that has be given to all Russian-born players who play in the NHL and it shapes how they are managed, coached and reported on. A recent example of this is the Edmonton Oilers’ Nail Yakupov. A commonly narrative that appeared in hockey media in the lead up to the 2012 Entry Draft was whether should be taken first overall. This wasn’t based on his talent, as he was the top ranked prospect by NHL Central scouting, but whether he was a flight risk to defect over to the KHL. This fear is based on a couple of high profile Russian players who have done so in the past (see: Radulov, Jagr) rather than anything from Yakupov that the KHL is his ultimate goal. The only factor needed to spark this commentary was he was Russian, completely ignoring that he had moved away from his family and friends to move across the globe to play for the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, knowing that his was the best way for him to develop his game and play in the NHL.
With 4.7 seconds left in the 3rd period down by one to the defending Stanley Cup Champions and only moments of having what seemed to be the tying goal disallowed, Yakupov had his first major impact by scoring the tying goal that sent the game to overtime. He’s reaction to scoring a clutch goal in his third NHL game was pure, unbridled enthuasium. What followed was Yakupov being vilified in hockey media, with Don Cherry being one of them. In that week’s popular ‘Coach’s Corner’ segment, Cherry blasted Yakupov’s actions and when bringing up the Fleury goal celebration said that he disliked that celebration as well and said in the segment that Fleury “was acting like an idiot”. However, Fleury remembers that night and in a tweeted “I do remember Don shaking my hand after scoring that goal in Edm and him