Many adjectives have been used to describe Nail Yakupov, the 19-year-old Russian player who went to the Edmonton Oilers with the first pick of the 2012 entry draft. For the most part, those descriptions have been overwhelmingly positive. That changed on Saturday night when Don Cherry, everyone’s favorite crusty, old hockey commentator, cued up a video of Yakupov celebrating a goal earlier in the week.
The setting was Rexall Place. The score was 1-0 in favor of the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. The Oilers had pulled their goalie as time ticked down. The clock was below 10 seconds when an air-bound rebound came off net and was swatted out of midair by Nail Yakupov for the tying goal.
The crowd in Edmonton cheered its approval while Yakupov celebrated, enthusiastically sliding from center ice to the blue line on his knees. The Oilers would then go on to win the game in overtime.
When Saturday’s Coach’s Corner was televised, the subject of Yakupov’s goal and the subsequent celebration was front and center, and Cherry was clearly not as enamored of Yakupov as the Oilers faithful, saying, “Any time you want to make our highlights at the start, just act like an idiot like this.”
Cherry then went on to say the Kings would remember Yakupov’s performance and then relayed a story about Theo Fleury’s similar celebration when he scored a game-winning goal for the Calgary Flames over the Edmonton Oilers.
You can bet that Cherry has circled the date of Feb. 19 on his calendar—that’s the next time the Kings and Oilers will meet.