Friday, May 18, 2012

"Oilers Arena"

I would like to introduce you to Paul Neumann. Over the last 6 months, I have spent time conversing back and forth on twitter and in person with this guy. He has a pretty good head on his shoulders and most of all he has a OPINION and is a OILERS FAN! Recently I suggested he write a posting that I could put up for you, here at oilersjambalaya to read. Leave a comment after you read if you don't mind, letting him know what you think of his post. 

I hope to post my final segment of the "Welcome to NAIL Country" Part IV sometime tomorrow. In the meantime and in between time, 'Keep your stick on the ice!'


Oilers’ Arena    By Paul Neumann 
   It’s the Off-Season for your Edmonton Oilers, and so far most of the talk about the team has been about the upcoming NHL Entry Draft which will be held in Pittsburgh. The talk has centred mainly around Nail Yakupov and, if the Blue and Orange should draft him with the 3rd consecutive 1st Overall Pick or, trade down in the top 5 and try for a stud-defenceman. However, not too much attention has been garnered by the “proposed” downtown arena, least of all its name! So, if we may wander down Wayne Gretzky Drive as it were, I’d like to propose a name for the soon-to-be-hallowed halls of this complex.

   Myself, I’ve been advocating for it to be named the
“Bill Hunter Memorial Centre”. Now, for those of you, who do not know the history of hockey in Edmonton; let me first explain to you who this man was, and why he deserves this great honour.

   Bill Hunter was actually born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on May 5th, 1920. He was the first of TEN children, and an avid sports fan. Bill founded his first sports team, the Saskatchewan Dukes Football Club when he was only 18 years old! (The team is now known as the Saskatchewan Hilltops Football Club, whom now competes in the Canadian Junior Football League). From there on, Hunter enrolled in Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, where he managed the school’s baseball club.
   He first became involved in managing hockey when he coached and managed the Saskatoon Quakers Hockey Club form 1950-’52. In 1955, he bought, managed and, coached the Medicine Hat Tigers Hockey Club.
Now flash-forward. ‘Wild’ Bill Hunter is now at the helm of the Edmonton Oil Kings Hockey Club as the team’s Owner, General Manager and, Head Coach. The team was founded by Leo LeClerc in 1951, but sold to Hunter in the early 1960’s. Under Hunter, the Oil Kings would win the Memorial Cup in ’63 and in ’66 and, become the Founding Franchise of the Western Canada Hockey League which we all know today as the Western Hockey league. 

Hunter founded the new league because he believed that the four Western Provinces, whom each had their own junior hockey leagues, could not compete with the larger, more powerful Ontario Hockey league and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Hunter's dreams for a unified western league came true in the summer of 1966, when some member clubs in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League seceded from the league, and approached Hunter in hopes of starting a new league. 

These teams were the Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Estevan Bruins, Moose Jaw Canucks and the Weyburn Red Wings. The ‘league’ then added a team in Calgary-the Calgary Buffaloes. The Oil Kings made it to the Memorial Cup TEN times between 1954 and 1976, winning the Memorial Cup in 1963 and 1966, capturing President's Cup (now the Ed Chenoweth Cup) titles in 1971 and 1972. However, it would prove to be the final championship titles in the glorious history of the original Edmonton Oil Kings before relocating to Portland out of financial difficulty, to become the Portland WinterHawks in 1976, after having been sold to different ownership.

   In 1972, Bill was approached by Dennis Murphy and Gary Davidson if he wanted to become the owner of a franchise in a new professional hockey league, called the World Hockey Association. Hunter leaped at the chance, as he had long wanted to bring professional hockey to Edmonton, but the National Hockey League wasn’t interested in expanding to Western Canada, least of all to Edmonton. He would go on to name the franchise the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club and, the glorious history of one of the worlds’ most famous sports teams begun. The team won the Inaugural Game of the newly formed World Hockey Association over the Ottawa Nationals, 7-4, and won their first-ever game in the Northlands Coliseum 4-1 against the Cleveland Crusaders, and history would be written from there on in. 

The team acquired top-notch talent, and even coaxed goaltending legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Jacques Plante out of retirement to start in goal for the squad. Plante ended his career in professional hockey as an Oiler in 1975. (Why the number he wore as an Oiler, #30 isn’t retired by the Edmonton Oilers, I’ll never be able to understand).

Hunter made one more serious attempt to bring a professional team to Western Canada, when in 1983 he offered to buy the financially struggling St. Louis Blues Hockey Club and move the team to his hometown of Saskatoon. The offer took many by surprise, even in Canada, as few thought an NHL team could remain profitable in a small city in the middle of the Canadian Prairies.
   Hunter later sold the team to Nelson Skalbania in 1979 before the WHA merged with the NHL. 

   So as you can see, this great man did so much to advance our National Game, and just as much to make Edmonton the envy of most of the country. Just think of it, even though the Oilers haven’t been faring too well for quite a few seasons, we still show up ready to support our team. We in the City of Champions are still loyal to the Oil, and Mr. Bill Hunter himself is partly responsible for this attitude for our sports clubs. It is a part of our culture, it is in our Blue and Orange blood. So here’s to the “Bill Hunter Memorial Centre” and, Go Oilers, Go!!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Welcome to NAIL Country" Part III

In yesterday's posting we talked about the enigma 'Nail Yakupov' and his fierce competitive edge he brings, not only to the ice but also to life. He may be Russian, but other then the language barrier , you would think he grew up in Canada. There has been a lot of talk about Yakupov possibly being like Hall with his all out relentless style of game. As I said last post, high risk, high reward.

I am sure many of you recall the injury Yakupov suffered in the gold medal game of the World Junior Championship. Shortly after his return he sustained a couple other setbacks. The incident in the gold medal game was a knee injury. Leading up to the 'Top Prospects' game, Nail had dressed in the previous 3, Sarnia Sting games. What some may have missed, is he did not play the 2nd or 3rd period of that third game. 
Sarnia sports media reported that Yakupov, searching for expert opinion, went to Dr. Bob Giffin, an orthopedic surgeon at the Fowler Kennedy Clinic in London, Ontario, who had been overseeing his treatment (is not a employee of the Sarnia Sting). Dr. Giffin recommended Yakupov not participate in the "Top Prospects" showcase, providing the young star the famous "doctor's note".
It was said that the CHL wanted Yakupov to still go to Kelowna to be assessed by one of the doctors hired by the league. Nail didn't make the trip, and the CHL/OHL Commissioner David Branch's response was to suspend Nail for 2 OHL games which also did occur.
This was a lot to handle pressure wise (when a league is basically acting like the injury is not valid is brings into question the integrity of the individual and the team). In spite of this, Nail just shrugged it off as another obstacle he would have to overcome.

Nail no sooner got back to work on the ice and upon finding his groove once again, he ended up back on the injury list. Despite picking up a 4-0 victory over the Owen Sound Attack, he took an illegal hit to the head by Owen Sound Attack Captain Michael Halmo.  Yakupov was hit directly in the head at 11:20 of the 2nd period.

Yakupov, ended up getting stitches to his mouth and suffered a concussion. He did not return to the game and remained out of the line up. Nail did come back before season's end but there was lots of speculation as to the level of his overall health.

'I thought it was blatantly dirty' said Sting Head Coach Jacques Beaulieu. 'Nail took alot of stitches to the face, it's all marked up. Halmo didn't hit anything else, but his head. We've got to take these hits out of out game and protect our kids.'

It is pretty much a given, the Oilers will be doing some heavy investigation into his medical records and be observing closely at the combine. What should be noted is that Nail Yakupov's ppg in the CHL was greater then Hall, Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. His ppg did drop off after his first injury but nothing at this point of time shows any reason to worry about his health. 


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Tom Renney Will Not Be Back!

The Edmonton Oilers announced that Tom Renney will not be back as the head coach for the 2012-13 season.

While its not surprising, they should have told him earlier as it has been over a month since the Oilers season ended.

Like I've said before, I'd fully expect OKC Barons head coach Todd Nelson to be on the short list when they have it ready. I'd strongly consider hiring him. He's done well so far with the club in his two years. He might even coach this team to a Calder Cup championship.

I'm interested to see how this plays out over the summer.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Welcome to NAIL Country" Part II

Last posting we finished off talking about Nail and his name, his time with his father back in the 'homeland' and how his life lessons may have served as a motivator for the success he has had. It appears to me that during his interview with Andrey Osadchenko, he was more then willing to allow the world a look into the man, more then just the name.

Character is a IMPORTANT factor in the Oilers choice when they select #1 overall at this draft. It has been stated on several episodes of 'Oil Change' and 'Oil Change OVERDRIVE' that Character is a MUST for a #1 overall pick.

As I mentioned before, I don't see Yakupov's outgoing personality as a 'negative'. In fact, the excitement he had in beating Canada has more to do with RESPECT of the Canadian team then disrespect. Why should he be so pumped beating Canada? Because it's FREAKING Canada man! Why was Canada so pumped about winning the 72 Summit series over the Soviet Union? Because it was the FREAKING Soviet's! It's a compliment, not a insult.

Nail is a player who plays on that edge, and yes, sometimes it may be risky. The greater the risk, the greater the reward IMO. Is Taylor Hall a risky bet? Yes, he is. But with great risk can also come great reward. Nail has that same edge. He comes across as authentic. What you see is what you get. Forget the fact he is Russian and look at the fact he is a 'fierce and skilled player'.

Back in 2009/2010, Nail was one of the very few 16 year olds who played in the MHL - Russia's major junior league, says Andrey Osadchenko. Despite not being on their top 2 lines he was still invited to play for the Russian U18 (quite the feat). Electing to further develop his career he headed to Sarnia of the OHL where he had been drafted and went on in his first season to break Steven "flipping" Stamkos rookie scoring record.

This guy has a compete level that is out of this world. Everything is a competition for him. Andrey Osadchenko in his interview tells another of Nail's story about his compete level. Nail tells Andrey "We tried to play soccer once - it was real difficult. It was so frustrating, I almost lost my mind. I expected a competitive game, but they couldn't do a thing on the pitch. (means playing field for non-soccer fans) They could neither kick the ball or pass it. Nothing. They were fooling around and laughing like a bunch of kids. It was terrible. I was really upset and thought 'Screw you guys. If you don't want to play fine. Go throw your stupid melon around the dressing room. I don't care.'" Some people could take that statement and make more out of it. Me? I just think he just wears his heart on his sleeve. He is, what he says he is and does what he believes is right. He has conviction and most of all, 'personality'.

Nail also has a appreciation for celebrating successes as well. In fact he tells Andrey Osadchenko that when he found out his Russian teammate from the 2012 WJ team, Nikita Gusev, did not take his SILVER Medal out of his hockey bag he was bothered. "I didn't like it one bit" said Yakupov. "..I put my silver medal on display right away..". Some people would disagree that finishing 2nd is worth celebrating but the difference between 1st and 2nd is very little. To me, it is worth celebrating, your 2nd best in the world. Enjoy your time but come back next year gunning to be #1!

Team Russian Coach Valeri Bragin has said "Yakupov will be a great player" , but still wants him to become a teammate that others will rally around. When asked about dealing with all the pressure's on him, Nail responded "In all honesty, I don't even notice it, sure I see my name popping up on various websites and all that. I don't get super excited about it, though. I don't think too much about what other people think about me. Sometimes people say, Yakupov is this and Yakupov is that, they talk about the pressure I'm supposed to be experiencing and sometimes they don't say anything. What's important is that I have a goal. I don't pay attention to small details."

QUOTE by Nail Yakupov; 
"Whatever You give to hockey, it gives back to you"


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Welcome to NAIL Country" Part I

Like many of you out there, I am first and foremost a fan of hockey. The last thing some people may want to read about is more on the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and Nail Yakupov. Or did I get that wrong? Judging by the hits we here at Oilersjambalaya and other sites on the blogosphere get on articles on Nail and the draft, I would say there is interest still.

Rather then try to defend the reasons I have for the Oilers taking Nail at #1 overall, (HENCE THE TITLE)  I thought 'why not get a closer look into his life and experiences?' For a few blogs, I will focus more on some stories of what is becoming a very interesting player in "Nail Yakupov".

Nail Yakupov
Born: October 6th,1993
Position: RW 
Height: 5'11
Weight: 190 pounds

Nail, a outspoken Russian with elite Skill and speed to burn, plays with a fire that is rare to find in a average player. Yakupov has been in the hockey limelight now for 2 years and doesn't even blink at the thought of pressure.

While several fans, scouts and even some media members bring in the 'Russian factor' as a argument to draft him at #1, Nail has no worries. Both he and his agent Larionov bring quick attention to his coming to North America early in his development and his desire to be the best, in the best league in the world.

Yakupov makes light of those who refer to his name as a sign of significance. Nail told reporters "I don't have a great story about my name, it's not like I had a great grandfather who was a hero and I was named after him. My parent's just liked the name and that's it". It's a common name in the region of Russia where he hails from but does mean 'the one who achieves success'.

Nail comes from a smaller city called Nizhnekamsk. He tell's how it is not much different then Sarnia, where he has played the last 2 years for the Sting. "Sarnia is more of a stretched town and has lots of houses" Say's Yakupov. "Nizhnekamsk is bigger, about 250,000 people live there, but more compact and has apartment buildings. I like small towns. I'm not really the going out type."

Nail's big passion is movies , particularly thrillers. He cites favourites as Law Abiding Citizen, Vantage Point, and Phone Booth to name a few. he says some people think he's a moron because he loves Phone Booth but Say's he can't help it. You have got to love the fact, he is not one to just go with the crowd but actually has opinions of his own. Some are concerned he may be too outgoing  and arrogant , to be a long term solution for the Edmonton Oilers and maybe not a team player and a teachable one at that. 

Nail's father Rail Yakupov (yes, you read that right), was Nail's junior coach. He was also director of a junior hockey school back home. It meant only one thing for Nail; He would have to work twice as hard as his peers. He learned his worth ethic and persistence early in life. "He was very demanding" Yakupov Say's. "I don't know where I would be without him. He liked to remind me 'If you want to play, keep your mouth shut, listen and do as your told'." A sign that tell's us, a lot about the way he grew up.

Connections in Sarnia to Oiler Players, tell of how great of a guy he is. Speaks a lot to his character. Some fans are concerned about his outspoken personality as a bad sign. I would say his work ethic, character and ability to handle enormous pressure would be more of a concern then him being 'excited' about beating Team Canada at the recent WJHC 2012.


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