Photo: Resolute/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
Like most of the readers here at OilersNation, I read Dmitry Chesnokov’s piece on Puck Daddy yesterday with interest. After quoting Rafik Yakubov, the director with Nail Yakupov’s KHL club (Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik) as saying “The IIHF is not allowing Yakupov to play,” Chesnokov went on to speculate that the IIHF might be waiting for official NHL permission before issuing transfer cards.
According to IIHF communications director Szymon Szemberg, that speculation is “entirely incorrect, false and fabricated.”
After some brief opening comments, Szemberg replied to me at length with what the IIHF sees as inaccuracies in the story.
The IIHF Response
On Neftekhimik director Rafik Yakubov’s comments: “The IIHF is not even in a position not allowing him to play (unless he is serving a severe disciplinary sentence or is under a doping suspension). As soon as the ITC has the three necessary signatures – the player’s, the old federation’s and the new federation’s – the IIHF by default approves a transfer.”
On Chesnokov’s comment that IIHF delays could prevent Yakupov from dressing for Neftekhimik’s next game: “Everyone who knows the ITC process is aware that the “old” federation (in this case Hockey Canada) has seven days to approve a transfer. All clubs in the KHL, who transfer many players throughout the season, are aware of this. This is also exactly the same right that Neftekhimik had when Yakupov transferred to Sarnia two years ago. Chesnokov’s reasoning can be compared with someone saying: ‘I have scheduled my trip to Russia this afternoon, the Russian embassy in Washington better get me a visa immediately otherwise I will miss my flight.’”
On the IIHF waiting for official permission from the NHL before issuing a transfer card: “Yes, and this is exactly how it works from all sides. If a player last played in the NHL, Hockey Canada or USA Hockey must get the NHL’s clearance to have the player transferred. The same right is with every national federation/league all over the world. If the transfer goes the other way, the Russian hockey federation in behalf of the KHL and its club gives their clearance. Where is the controversy?”
On the possibility of the NHL blocking players from dressing for games via pressure n the IIHF: “The NHL has never stopped any player from transferring unless there is a valid reason like a conflicting contract or unfulfilled obligations. No league or federation can stop a transfer unless they present a valid reason in accordance to the IIHF transfer regulations and they have seven days to present their case. If there is no answer within seven days, or if the IIHF finds the reasoning for not approving not in accordance to the regulations, the IIHF would still approve the transfer.”
Szemberg also took issue with the reference to Radulov’s transfer to Russia while still under contract to Nashville, pointing out that the situation involving that player led to modifications of the transfer card process. He also updated the situation with regard to the Czech players mentioned in Chesnokov’s report, saying that the IIHF “expeditiously” approved transfer cards for Jaromir Jagr, Marek Zidlicky, Jiri Tlusty and Vladimir Sobotka specifically so that none of those players would miss any games.
From my point of view, all of this goes back to Yakubov’s comments. His statement that “the transfer card has not been sent from Switzerland” would seem to be accurate, but the surrounding speculation by both Yakubov and Chesnokov is at odds with the IIHF position. Szemberg makes the case – and makes it well, in my opinion – that the IIHF isn’t dragging its heels out of deference to the NHL, but is just sticking to the same process that it always has, and waiting for approved signatures from all parties before putting the paperwork through.
Yakupov was returned to Sarnia on September 15. He’s in Russia now, sitting as his team plays Torpedo (they’re in the second intermission as of this writing). It’s only been four days, and there’s a seven-day window. Given that, this really sounds like something that’s going to be a) cleared up shortly and b) will have no lasting impact on Yakupov’s season.
Also, while Szemberg specifically hammered Puck Daddy for the report – he told me that he would rather not have responded in such fashion, but that the Puck Daddy headline and story left him "with no other choice" – it does feel like the root problem here are the comments by Yakubov. Yakubov’s statement implied political maneuvering without stating it explicitly, and Chesnokov followed that statement with speculation along those lines. On the other hand, Chesnokov’s description of “the large scale of the IIHF’s ineptness” does seem rather unfair given that a) there’s a seven-day window and the lockout only started four days ago and b) there’s been absolutely no concrete evidence to suggest that the delay is at the IIHF head office rather than at the local federation level. The fact that transfers have gone through for Czech players rather suggests that the delay is in fact at the local federation level, and given the span of time involved it’s not even a particularly lengthy delay.
Bottom line: I see no compelling reason to hold the IIHF’s feet to the fire on this, and better still I have every reason to believe that Nail Yakupov will be playing hockey again in the very near future.
(Full disclosure – I’m not a close friend to Chesnokov, Greg Wyshynski or any of the other Puck Daddy staff, but I have interacted with them on occasion, once writing a piece for the site, and do generally have a good relationship with the site and the individuals behind it.)
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