Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fight Brewing over Nail Yakupov's Playing Rights during the NHL Lockout

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fight Brewing over Nail Yakupov's Playing Rights during the NHL Lockout

Article excerpt

Who controls Yakupov's playing rights?

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Nail Yakupov could be forced to return to the Ontario Hockey League if he wants to continue playing during the NHL lockout.

The flashy forward was suspended by the Russian-based KHL on Wednesday after it was revealed he didn't secure a transfer card to join Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. The International Ice Hockey Federation ruled he played illegally when he suited up for his hometown team in two games earlier this month, casting doubt over the immediate future of the NHL's most recent No. 1 pick.

At issue is who controls his playing rights.

Hockey Canada, which refused to sign off on Yakupov's transfer, and the Canadian Hockey League both believe he belongs with the Sarnia Sting. That issue was raised to the IIHF this week during its general congress in Tokyo, according to CHL president David Branch.

"Some of us were a little surprised when Yakupov appeared in a couple of games on the weekend in the KHL without any prior knowledge of anybody with Hockey Canada, the CHL and/or the Sarnia Sting," said Branch.

Hockey Canada insists it is simply acting on behalf of the OHL team. Yakupov spent the last two seasons with Sarnia and is said to have committed to the Sting through the 2012-13 season.

"(We) cannot sign the international transfer card for Nail Yakupov until the Sarnia Sting club releases this player from his contract," said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson. "If Sarnia advises Hockey Canada that it has released the player, Hockey Canada will sign his transfer card."

Yakupov believes he would be better served to square off against men than teenagers during the lockout.

Rather than reporting to Sarnia when the Edmonton Oilers assigned his rights to the junior club on Sept. 15, he boarded a plane for Russia. That came as little surprise since he had told reporters at the end of August the only reason he'd go to Sarnia this year was "just for a visit."

On Wednesday afternoon, Yakupov posted a message to his Twitter account in Russian that said he believes he'll be able to continue playing for his hometown team in the KHL and that "everything will be worked out in the near future. …

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