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Nail Yakupov locked out of Russia by Hockey Canada?

Dmitry Chesnokov
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In two games with Neftekhimik Nizhnekams of the KHL, Edmonton Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov had zero points and was a minus-1.

So maybe they won't miss him if Hockey Canada is able to keep the No. 1 overall pick in last summer's NHL Draft out of Russia during the lockout.

The KHL announced on Tuesday that Yakupov is "temporarily" unable to play for Neftekhimik because of an IIHF investigation into his transfer to the League.

The KHL's Director of Sports Event Management Dmitry Kurbatov told Sportbox.ru that Yakupov temporarily cannot play in Russia until the IIHF determines the legitimacy of his transfer:

"The IIHF initiated this whole process," Kurbatov said. "Currently the IIHF is determining the legitimacy of Yakupov's transfer to the KHL. His current status in the NHL, the AHL and the KHL is raising questions. While the investigation is ongoing, in accordance with the Regulations we cannot allow a player to play in our league. I hope this problem will be resolved in the coming days."

The move by Hockey Canada not to approve the ITC comes from Sarnia, it appears, as the Edmonton Oilers officially assigned Yakupov to play there. It is unclear whether this was done before or after Yakupov's agent Igor Larionov negotiated for the Oilers to allow Yakupov to play in the KHL.

(Buzzing The Net, Yahoo! Sports' Junior Hockey Blog, has more on the Sarnia angle.)

Yakupov has also been very vocal as far as where he wanted to play. This move by Hockey Canada may now trigger KHL's reaction that could affect a lot of young Russian players who want to play in Canada.

Almost every player drafted in the CHL from Russia has a contract with a Russian club. Players who are playing in the Russian Junior League — the MHL — actually have KHL contracts. That means that these players will need their clubs to agree to allow them to play in Canada.

[Related: Goal of the year candidate from the KHL]

The move today was done for the benefit of the CHL, not the player involved. Any move by the KHL and the Russian Hockey Federations to restrict the movement of juniors will be done for the benefit of the KHL.

That just means that players will suffer in the end.

Here is the IIHF statement on the matter:

Nail Yakupov has played two games for the KHL Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk without an approved International Transfer Card, ITC. The ITC was not signed by Hockey Canada and was thus not approved by the IIHF. Playing without an approved ITC following an international transfer request is a breach of IIHF transfer regulations.

At this time, being that Hockey Canada did not approve Nail Yakupov's ITC, his case is in appeal procedures. Until appeal procedures are complete and a decision regarding his transfer to Russia is made, an ITC will not be approved or denied by the IIHF.

In accordance with IIHF regulations the IIHF has sanctioned the Russian Ice Hockey Federation with a fine of 5.000 CHF and informed the RHF to withdraw the player from further competition in order not to risk stronger sanctions, including sanctions (suspension) of the player, pending the final decision of the IIHF's appeal procedure. In accordance with IIHF regulations, the Russian Ice Hockey Federations has seven days (1 October 2012) to respond to Hockey Canada's appeal.

I asked the IIHF for further clarifications:

Q. Is not signing the ITC the same as not approving it?

IIHF: According to IIHF regulations the member national association has seven days to sign or not approve an ITC. The same time is given to respond to an appeal. It's the same time that now RHF has to respond to Hockey Canada's appeal. "Signing" is the same as "approving".

Q. Has the IIHF taken any steps to contact Hockey Canada?

IIHF: IIHF has contacted Hockey Canada who has submitted all relevant information to the IIHF. The documentation is part of the ongoing appeal process.

Q. And what were the reasons given?

IIHF: The IIHF does not disclose any reasons during the appeal process. Hockey Canada may, if they wish to, give the reasons when approached.

To close this out, here's a recent quote from Yakupov himself:

"How could they assign me to Sarnia if I am already in Nizhnekamsk?! I said right away that I will not play in the AHL if there is a lockout, I want to play adult hockey!

"Even before the lockout I was invited to Neftekhimik. Of course I agreed right away: to play for the home club is my long time dream. So I didn't have any other options where to go.  I bought tickets and flew to Nizhnekamsk right away.  And I can't play in the OHL because of my age. I don't think the League would change their rules because of one person."

For now, he sits and waits to find out where he'll play.

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