UFA, Russia — Nail Yakupov has clammed up.
The Russian star, who was quoted this week in Russia’s R-Sport as saying that Canadian hockey players were dirty, won’t be talking to reporters at the 2013 world junior championship until Sunday, a Russian team official said on Thursday.
Yakupov, the first overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 NHL entry draft, was quoted as saying: “I will have to keep a cool head and ignore provocations. Especially against the Canadians. These guys play dirty. We got used to that, we played a few games in North America, so our team is ready.”
Canada and Russia meet on New Year’s Eve in a game that should be the marquee attraction of the preliminary round, one that could decide first place and the right to go straight to a semifinal.
The Canadians aren’t bothered by Yakupov.
“If they want to get into that kind of stuff with us, that’s fine,” forward Ty Rattie said on Thursday. “We will let our play do the talking and we are looking forward to that game against Russia, especially on Russian soil. It’s going to be a fun game.”
Canadian hockey icon Don Cherry addressed the comments in a different way on Wednesday, slamming one of Russia's most talented players after Canada "let" Yakupov into the Canadian Hockey League.
“Let me see,” the Coach’s Corner icon started his statement, “We let him take a Canadian kid’s spot in the Canadian Hockey League, let him learn his hockey in our program, treat him (like) royally, give him great coaching so he can go No. 1 overall (in the NHL Draft) and he calls us dirty.”
Before taking one of the tournament’s top talents to task for his pre-tournament comments, Cherry went old school, appearing to mix WWII history with one of hockey’s biggest rivalries.
“Funny hearing the Russian people cheering for Germany against Canada,” he wrote. “How soon they forget … I could care less what Nail thinks of us, what bugs me, he took a Canadian kids spot in the Canadian Hockey League.”
Canada and Russia meet on New Year’s Eve. Count on it being a heck of a hockey game.